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EDWARD BAKER, 



MONCURE DANIEL CONWAY 



AUTOBIOGRAPH 



MEMORIES AND EXPERIENCES 




OF 



MONCURE DANIEL CONWAY 



WITH TWO PORTRAITS 




VOLUME I. 



CASSELL AND COMPANY, LIMITED 

LONDON, PARIS, NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE. MCMIV 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



<\ 



DEDICATION AND PREFACE. 



THE first words of this work were written in New York, July, 1897, 
and consisted of its dedication 

" TO ELLEN DANA CON WAY. 

" In response to your desire, my wife. I undertake to record the 
more salient recollections of my life. It is a life you have made 
happy, and never unhappy save by the failure of your health : its 
experiences during forty years have been yours also, and on the 
counsel and judgment which have never been wanting at my side 
I can happily still rely in living over again in our joint memory the 
events deemed worthy of record. 

" Let me obey my own heart, and secure the favour of many 
hearts that have known your friendship and witnessed your life, in 
America and Europe, by writing your name on a work as yet un 
written, to which because it is an enterprise near your heart I 
now dedicate myself." 

This dedication is now to a memory. 

My wife died on Christmas Day, 1897. But the joint memory 
on which I had depended has not been altogether wanting ; among 
her papers I found a sort of journal, and in this and her letters to 
relatives she has continued to help me. 

Many valued friends in America and Europe, and even several 
journals, have also called for my reminiscences, and I have felt it a 
fair demand on the closing years of a surviving witness to develop 
ments and events which have made momentous chapters of history. 
The wisdom or unwisdom of a new generation must largely depend on 
its knowledge and interpretation of the facts and forces that operated 
in the generations preceding, from which are bequeathed influences 
that become increasingly potent when shaped in accepted history. 
The eventualities of life brought me into close connection with some 
large movements of my time, and also with incidents little noticed 
when they occurred, which time has proved of more far-reaching 
effect than the immediately imposing events. I have been brought 
into personal relations with leading minds and characters which 



viii DEDICATION AND PREFACE. 

already are becoming quasi-classic figures to the youth around me, 
and already show the usual tendency of such figures to invest 
themselves with mythology. But, as the psalmist asks, who can 
understand his own errors ? Perhaps none of us completely ; but 
when, as life draws to a close, a man reviews closely the road he has 
travelled, he can understand many of his errors ; and if they were 
not due to any bias of official position or of any ambition for such, 
his impressions of events and of men, however erroneous, become 
part of his testimony, if given with the same independence and sin 
cerity. 

I might, perhaps, have sufficiently met the general interest in a 
narrative of this kind by writing a history of my own times, instead 
of an autobiography. This would have saved me from the distress 
of using the personal pronoun " I " so much, and the implication of 
Quorum magna pars fui. But a public teacher, so far as he can 
understand his errors, should try and correct them. In my ministry 
of a half-century I have placed myself, or been placed, on record 
in advocacy of contrarious beliefs and ideas. A pilgrimage from 
pro-slavery to anti-slavery enthusiasm, from Methodism to Free- 
thought, implies a career of contradictions. One who starts out at 
twenty to think for himself and pursue truth is likely to discover 
at seventy that one-third of his life was given to error, another third 
to exchanging it for other error, and the last third to efforts to unsay 
the errors and undo the mistakes of the other two-thirds. One s 
opinions may indeed be of interest or importance to only a small 
circle, but out of this circle may arise one or another whose influence 
may become large. If one has published works that may be quoted 
on opposite sides of serious issues, he is under obligation to point out 
the steps by which he was led from one to the other, even though 
he may know of none that his silence would mislead. 

I know well that my work is unsatisfactory. It could not possibly 
be either chronological or complete. To master thoroughly and 
report rightly the memories distributed in thousands of papers accumu 
lated in two eventful generations by a participant in their storm and 
stress would require another lifetime. Among innumerable state 
ments some inaccuracies can hardly be escaped, especially when most 
of those whose scrutiny was needed are in their graves. Nevertheless, 
I have through nearly four years assiduously sat at my task, sparing 
no pains to be exact and just ; and I now send forth my work with 
the solemn feeling natural to an old author uttering his last word to 

M. D. C. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

OF 

MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

CHAPTER I. 

My Own People The Browns and Stones of Maryland Thomas Stone, 
signer of the Declaration Moncures, Daniels, and Conways of 
Virginia Peytons and Washingtons The Liberal Principles of 
my Forbears. 

THE lonely corner of the world where I was born (17 March, 
1832) is in Stafford County, Virginia, about fifteen miles 
from Falmouth. My parents were Walker Peyton Conway 
and Margaret Eleanor Daniel, married in 1829, ne being then 
twenty-four, she twenty-two. I was their second child. The name 
of my birth-house, long gone to decay, was " Middleton," chosen 
no doubt by my mother, whose great-grandfather, Dr. Gustavus 
Brown, so named his American residence in Maryland, after the 
family homestead near Dalkeith, Scotland. This physician, 
Laird of Mainside, settled in Charles County, Maryland, in 1708, 
and by his second wife, the widow Margaret Boyd, nee Fowke, 
of Staffordshire, had two children : Dr. Gustavus Brown, of 
" Rose Hill," and Margaret, who married the Hon. Thomas 
Stone of Maryland, signer of the Declaration of Independence. 

Thomas and Margaret Stone resided near Port Tobacco, in 
a mansion called " Havre de Venture," and had two daughters ; 
one of whom, Mildred, married Travers Daniel, Jr., of the Vir 
ginia Legislature, the other, Margaret, his brother, Dr. John 
Moncure Daniel, U.S.A., my mother s father. 

The father of these brothers, Travers Daniel of " Crow s 



2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Nest," had married Frances Moncure, daughter of Rev. John 
Moncure, whose wife was Frances Brown, daughter of Dr. 
Gustavus Brown of " Rose Hill." 

The Moncures were of French origin the family, according 
to tradition, having been swept into Great Britain by the troubles 
following the Reformation, with which they sympathised. My 
great-great-grandfather, John Moncure, went to Virginia (1733) 
from County Kincardine, Scotland. The name in Scotland is 
Moncur, and supposed to be from " mon coeur" the coat of 
arms being three hearts. I suspect the name of having been 
bestowed symbolically by some assembly of French Protestants 
on their warm-hearted pastor. One of John s daughters, Anne, 
married my great-grandfather, Walker Conway, whose first 
name was borne by my father. I am thus descended from 
two of the old rector s daughters, and whenever I enter France 
feel the heraldic hearts bounding in me. 

The Daniel family, connected by Hayden with the Daniels 
of Wigan, County Lancaster, England, first appear in Virginia 
in 1634. They had large grants of land, were generally pro 
fessional men, and active in the affairs of the colony. My great- 
great-grandfather, Peter Daniel, when presiding justice of 
Stafford County, announced to the governor of Virginia that 
he would resign his office rather than administer the Stamp Act, 
a step rendered unnecessary by its repeal. His wife was daughter 
of Raleigh Travers, by his wife Hannah Ball, half-sister of 
Washington s mother. 

The founder of our Conway race in Virginia was Edwin, who 
with his wife nee Martha Eltonhead came from England in 
1640 and settled in Lancaster County. He was a kinsman of 
Viscount Edward Conway of Conway Castle and Killeltah, and 
used the arms : Sable on a band argent cotised ermine, a rose gules 
between two annulets of the last. Crest : A Moor s head sidefaced 
ppr. y banded round the temples ar. and az. Motto : Fide et amove. 
The Virginia race is extensive, and has intermarried with most 
of the historic families of Virginia.* 

* General Conway of the American Revolution was a Frenchman. 
The English General Conway, who in the House of Commons first moved 
the withdrawal of George III. s armies from America, was a kinsman 
of the Virginia Conwavs. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 3 

Virginia democracy forbade us to derive from our ancestors 
any dignity. But now and then a few fruits fell from the for 
bidden family tree in the shape of anecdotes or traditions, which 
I picked up. Several of these related to the " Precious Stones " 
of Maryland, as my mother fondly called them. The first of 
that family in America, William Stone, had come to Virginia, 
and was induced by Lord Baltimore to become the governor of 
Maryland, where he arrived in 1649. This selection was made 
because the Catholic Proprietary desired a Protestant governor 
free from prejudice against Catholics. Governor Stone s task 
was to open the doors of Maryland to all religions. The Puritans 
flocked to Maryland ; but Cromwell s commissioners, sent to 
Virginia, claimed Maryland, and in trying to defend the charter 
of the Proprietary (1655), Governor Stone was wounded and 
thrown into prison, and would have been executed, but " was 
after saved by the Enemies owne souldiers." Such is the account 
of his wife, Verlinda Stone, whose narrative of these events in 
Maryland, addressed to Lord Baltimore in England, is not only 
a document of historical importance, but written with notable 
literary ability. 

The error of the governor and council was that they went 
to parley with the invaders, accompanied by a small party of 
soldiers. The messengers they sent were held. The Protector s 
commission ought simply to have been asked for their authority 
by the governor himself, unarmed. His descendants became 
leading men in Maryland. Thomas Stone, signer of the De 
claration of Independence, was Maryland s darling statesman. 
In his home at Port Tobacco, " Havre de Venture " (still in the 
family, 1903), he drafted a republican constitution for Mary 
land. Thomas Stone was elected to the Constitutional Conven 
tion of 1787, but never took his seat. Just then his fair sky 
was fatally overcast ; his young wife died from the sequels of 
inoculation. He sank into melancholy, and his physician 
persuaded him to visit Europe. For that purpose he engaged 
passage on a packet at Alexandria, but on the eve of sailing 
died of a broken heart. 

Trumbull, in painting the Signing of the Declaration of 
Independence, has engraved on the American mind a scene that 
never occurred, the Congress never having signed in a body, 



4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

but in a straggling way through seven or eight months. Trum- 
bull has also included the portrait of a Livingston who did not 
sign, and omitted that of Thomas Stone, who did sign. The 
artist excused this by saying that he could not find Stone s 
portrait but he could have found it by inquiring for the signer s 
heirs. The portraits of Thomas Stone and his wife were carried 
by their daughter Margaret to Virginia when she married my 
grandfather, and by my mother s gift they now belong to my 
sister Mildred, the wife of Dr. F. A. March of Lafayette College, 
Easton, Pa. 

My grandfather, Dr. John Moncure Daniel, while studying 
medicine and surgery in Edinburgh, made the acquaintance 
there of a boarding-school girl, Miss Niven, daughter of an 
English naval officer. The youth called on her several times 
in the free Virginia fashion, but discovered that the young lady s 
name had been compromised by his visits. Thereon he promptly 
proposed to marry her ; and as she was already enamoured, and 
her lover s social credentials were excellent, no difficulty arose 
in Edinburgh. But " Crow s Nest," Virginia, was in distress. 
Travers Daniel, shocked that his son should marry before enter 
ing on his profession, or even reaching his majority, insisted on 
a postponement. The son gave a score of reasons why that 
could not be ; the father became stern, and wrote that the 
lady would wed a penniless man ; the young man answered 
that where honour was involved money weighed nothing. So 
the young surgeon came to Virginia with his bride ; and when 
his father saw the beautiful little lady his heart went out to 
her. He set his son well up with house and office at Dumfries, 
Virginia. But the lady died within a year, and her name only 
remained in our family, being that of her husband s eldest 
daughter by his second wife, Margaret Stone. The last time I 
ever saw this beloved aunt, Jean Niven Crane, we sat together 
reading the letters that passed between father and son in that 
affair at Edinburgh. 

The second Dr. Gustavus Brown in Maryland, brother of 
Mrs. Thomas Stone, resided at " Rose Hill," near by, and es 
tablished there a medical school. He was a devoted friend of 
General Washington, and there is a tradition that the General 
occasionally escaped from the throng at Mount Vernon by going 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 5 

down the river to " Rose Hill." My mother told me of her 
grand-uncle s night ride when a messenger from Mount Vernon 
summoned him to attend Washington in his last illness. Two 
horses were broken down in that gallop to the landing opposite 
Mount Vernon, where he arrived seven hours before Washington s 
death. 

The General, who had escaped guns and swords in a seven 
years war, succumbed to the lancet. So Dr. Gustavus Brown 
believed, and wrote, January 2, 1800, to Dr. Craik, Washington s 
family physician, that he thought their bleeding the sufferer 
was the fatal mistake. Thenceforth he discarded the lancet 
altogether. 

My paternal great-grandparents, Dr. Valentine Peyton and 
Mary Butler Washington, his wife, resided at " Tusculum," 
several miles from Stafford Court House, and their home was 
famous for its luxurious hospitalities and festivities. The history 
of the Peyton family both in England and Virginia is told in 
the work of Mr. Chester Waters, " The Chesters of Chicheley." 
Dr. Peyton was a brilliant man intellectually, a man of the 
world, a fine flute-player, and his wife distinguished for her 
wit and her elegance of dress and manners. She was the sister 
of Colonel William Washington, who during the Revolution 
declined the title of General, saying, " There can be but one 
General Washington." Their father was Baily Washington, son 
of Henry, who was son of John, the brother of General Wash 
ington s grandfather, Lawrence. George Washington s great 
grandfather was thus Mrs. Peyton s great-great-grandfather.* 
General Washington appointed Colonel William Washington 
commander of the entire South when war with France was 
expected. 

Mr. Francis Galton s works on Heredity put before me in a 
new form the catechetical question, " Who made you ? " Only 
when I was beginning to turn grey was any curiosity awakened 
in me to know how it was that I should carry the names of three 
large families into association with religious and political heresies 

* See the will of Henry Washington, published by Hayden (Virginia 
Genealogies, p. 519), and the will of Mrs. Martha Hayward, sister of 
Colonel John Washington, the immigrant, discovered by Worthington C. 
Ford (New York Evening Post, November 17, 1892). 



6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

unknown to my contemporary Virginians except as distant 
horrors. Who, then, made me ? 

When my unorthodoxy began to be conscious I reflected on 
an incident that occurred when I was about twelve. I was at 
the house of John Wheatley of Wheatleyville, Culpeper County, 
Virginia, whose wife was grandmother Conway s sister, when my 
grandparents came on a visit. To my grandfather, John Moncure 
Conway, everybody looked up ; he was a scholar (graduate of 
William and Mary, 1800), and a serious man. While reading on 
the veranda my ear caught these words spoken by grandfather 
to his brother-in-law : "I cannot believe that the father of 
mankind would send any human being into this world knowing 
that he would be damned." I could hardly appreciate the 
remark, but it was marked in my memory, and also the silence 
of devout uncle Wheatley. From this time I knew that in some 
way grandfather Conway had a religion different from that of 
others. He and grandmother never talked to me about religion, 
nor about keeping the Sabbath and saying my prayers. Al 
though a vestryman of Aquia church (unused during his later 
years), he attended no church, nor were he and grandmother 
ever " confirmed." There was Methodist preaching in the 
court-house every Sunday, but grandfather never attended, and 
generally passed the morning in his office.* 

In 1751 Denis Conway, deputy-sheriff of Northumberland 
County, Virginia, was fined several thousand pounds of tobacco 
for non-attendance at church. He gave no explanation for his 
abstention. Probably he was one of those Broad churchmen 
who preferred getting their Sunday instruction from the free- 
thinking prelates Tillotson and Jeremy Taylor. Although Dean 
Swift was the only survivor into the eighteenth century of that 
grand race of clergymen in England, it found a nest in William 
and Mary College, Virginia. The rationalists were known as the 
" Illuminati " ; and, although after the Revolution their light 

* One Sunday when leaving his office for dinner, he saw a gentleman 
angrily bundled out of the only inn in the place because he had devoted 
the morning to a walk instead of going to church ; he took the " Sabbath- 
breaker " to his house and entertained him several days. The guest 
was A. Bronson Alcott, the Emersonian philosopher, who told me the 
story. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. ; 

was hid under the democratic bushel, even in my time ah, had 
I known it ! there remained some representatives of the " Illu- 
minati," such as grandfather Con way. 

I have found, too, that my maternal forbears, the Daniels, 
were not all orthodox. My mother s uncle, Walter Daniel, left 
a Bible in which there is in his writing a marginal note to Judges i., 
19 : " The Lord was with Judah ; and he drave out the inhabi 
tants of the hill country ; for he could not drive out the inhabi 
tants of the valley because they had chariots of iron." Uncle 
Walter adds : " Not omnipotent after all ! " 

My great-great-grandfather, John Moncure, for twenty-six 
years rector of our parish (Overwharton), died in 1765, but left 
his legend which lasted over a hundred years. Descended, 
according to a tradition, from a Huguenot whose conscience led 
him from joyous France to the bleak hills of Calvinism and 
Scotland, he migrated to Virginia in youth as a teacher, and 
though he was persuaded by an aged parson, Alexander Scott, 
to return to England for holy orders and help him in Over 
wharton parish, John could never make himself other than a 
merry fox-hunting gentleman, assiduous cultivator of literature y 
flowers, and of gay young people. He was a famous whist 
player. One Saturday evening when his game was interrupted 
by a deputation of farmers requesting that he would next day 
pray for rain, he promptly said, " Yes, I ll read the prayer, but 
it isn t going to rain till the moon changes." 

Can I not pick my sceptical soul out of these old people ? 

I came also by my antislavery principles fairly. My great 
grandfather, Travers Daniel, of " Crow s Nest," presiding justice 
of Stafford County, was an ardent emancipationist, and had 
not the laws of Virginia hampered the manumission of negroes 
in various ways, he would have liberated his slaves. He im 
ported from England in his ship The Crow (whence " Crow s 
Nest," name of his house) window curtains representing Gran- 
ville Sharp striking chains from negroes, and displayed them 
around his house. Neighbours warned him that his slaves would 
be excited by the curtains and leave him, but he simply replied 
that it would be a relief. He died in 1824. My mother re 
membered the curtains. 

Travers Daniel and General Wood married daughters of 



8 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

Rev. John Moncure, and no doubt had the sympathy of their 
father-in-law in anti-slavery work. General Wood was an 
eminent governor of Virginia, and from 1798 president of the 
Virginia " Society for promoting the abolition of Slavery, and 
protecting those Illegally held in Bondage." This society was 
affiliated with the original society formed in Philadelphia under 
the presidency of Franklin just after the publication, March 8, 
1775, of Thomas Paine s plea for immediate emancipation. 

Such was my pre-natal constitution. I was born of people 
opposed to slavery, and when in my twenty-second year my 
rdle seemed to many Virginians that of the Prodigal Son, it was 
the new proslavery Virginian who was the Prodigal, while my 
part was that of the father at home mourning for the wanderer. 

Our patriarchal Peter Humstead, who had belonged to my 
mother s father, was never weary of telling me of the frightful 
blizzard on my birthnight, when between midnight and morning 
he rode the fifteen miles to Falmouth and the same distance 
back with the doctor. 

My mother told me that it was for a time doubtful whether 
I would live. There was not one Catholic in the county to 
ascribe my preservation to birth on the day of St. Patrick. 
But probably no Catholic country witnessed, in the same year, 
1832, a wilder outbreak of popular superstition than that which 
throughout our county responded to the memorable display of 
" shooting stars." The ignorant people leaped with notable 
unanimity to the belief that Judgment Day was at hand, and 
crowded to the door of every discoverable preacher, imploring 
intercession and prayers. 



CHAPTER II. 

Our Homestead " Inglewood " School Conway House, Falmouth Our 
Mulatto Hero Falmouth and its Millionaire Party Contests 
Family Legends My Conway Grandparents " Erleslie " Metho 
dism. 

IN my second year my father purchased a large farm and home 
stead two miles out of Falmouth, called " Inglewood," and it is 
there that my remembrance begins. Through life it has re 
mained with me as a " Lost Bower," and the only house I ever 
built (Bedford Park, London) bore that name. " Inglewood," 
Virginia, was a two-storied frame house, with a long veranda, 
opening on two acres of sward and flowers enclosed by an ever 
green hedge. Beyond the hedge on one side was an orchard of 
white heath peaches, on the other many varieties of apples. In 
our fields grew melons, in the woods huckleberries, chinquapins, 
hickory nuts ; and indeed I can think of no charm wanting to 
our little Avalon. My brother Peyton, two years my senior, 
and myself had the freedom of the adjacent farms " Sher- 
bourne," residence of a spinster cousin, Sarah Daniel ; and 
" Glencairn," home of a beloved uncle and aunt (Richard Mon- 
cure, whose wife was my father s sister), their many children 
being our constant playmates. 

But before all the playmates I remember the comely coffee- 
coloured face of my nurse, Maria Humstead, nearly always 
laughing, as if I were a joke. Her affection was boundless, and 
her notions of discipline undeveloped. " Come, Monc, fess 
your faults," and an outbreak of laughter, were all that met my 
infant mischief. 

My father and uncle Richard Moncure united in providing 
a teacher for us Miss Elizabeth Gaskins (originally Gascoigne), 
a niece of grandfather Conway. To this gracious lady, who 
instructed me five years, I owe much. Her school was held for 
a time in my father s office in our garden. The earliest incident 
in my memory is of my father and uncle Richard visiting the 



io THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

school. I was lifted to a table and read sentences from a primer. 
The praise they gave me, and our teacher s kiss, planted a new 
fruit in our paradise. I was then probably in my fifth year. 
Then a log schoolhouse was built halfway between Inglewood 
and Glencairn. 

My next remembrance is seeing my newborn sister, Mildred, 
who was born January 25, 1837. 

My more consecutive memories begin with a tragical day in 
1838, when from the schoolhouse window we saw Inglewood 
wrapped in flames. My parents were at the house of a neigh 
bour ; the only member of our family in the house was my 
year-old sister, whom our nurse Maria deposited in a field remote 
from danger. The house was reduced to ashes. 

We then moved into Falmouth, where my father bought the 
residence afterwards known as Con way House. It is a brick 
house fronting the Rappahannock the largest residence in 
Falmouth. It was built by a Mr. Vass, of Dutch family, and 
the wallpaper in the drawing-room was a continuous scene in 
Rotterdam, with a canal in which women were washing clothes, 
children playing beside it, and barges plying on it. This decora 
tion lasted until the house was used as a war hospital, 1862-65. 
At the back the house opened through porches on a flower 
garden embowered with aspens and fig-trees, there being also 
a superb Judas-tree ; beyond the outhouses the vegetable garden, 
bordered with box and myrtle, extended to a succession of steep 
terraces, with midway an arbour of roses, morning-glories, and 
honeysuckle the haunt of humming-birds. 

These terraces were relics of fortifications built in 1675 
against the aborigines, this being the origin of Falmouth. The 
military heritage of the little town was displayed a hundred years 
after its foundation ; it was the first place in Virginia to raise a 
company against Great Britain. Threescore years later the 
colonial belligerency survived only in parades of little boys, in 
blue and white, with wooden guns, on the hill above our terraces. 
Alas ! how many of them reached manhood only to be laid in 
the Confederate cemetery ! 

A sister was born, and named Catherine Washington. She 
lived only ten days. My mother sent for me to come to her 
bedside, and tried to explain the mysterious event. I remember 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 11 

vividly her pale face on the pillow, her tears, and her effort to 
make me comprehend. 

My father did not part with Inglewood farm, and we con 
tinued to go out there to school, walking the two miles each 
way daily. We were accompanied by a mulatto youth, Charles 
Humstead. Handsome, brilliant, merry, with an inexhaustible 
store of stories and songs, this coloured genius was the most 
romantic figure of our little world. Along the pathway through 
the woods his snares and " hare-gums " were set, and rarely 
failed of their prey. A meadow we had to cross was the haunt 
of mocassin snakes, and his skill in slaying these dragons guarding 
our tree of knowledge was wonderful. That indeed was his 
main function. Advancing ahead of us, stick in hand, treading 
warily with his bare feet, his eye could not be cheated by the 
deadly reptile s mimicry of clay, nor did he fail to strike the 
point on its back that left it helpless. 

Charles knew all serpent lore. The tail would not die until 
sunset, or until it thundered. If rain was needed he hung the 
snake on a tree. In studying myths of Indra, thunderer and 
rain-giver, and of the drouth-serpent Ahi, I have often remem 
bered those bits of the oriental fable rehearsed by our coloured 
comrade in the woods of Virginia. 

But alas ! we had to part from Charles. He found our little 
town dull, and the devil tempted him in the form of a rusty 
fire-engine which had remained in its dismantled shanty many 
years. It occurred to Charles, aged seventeen, that it would be 
fun to see the engine work, and he set fire to a dilapidated out 
house near by. Although this small house was not in use, nor 
near any other, it was claimed that sparks from it might have 
reached dwellings ; and the alternatives for Charles were a 
severe possibly capital punishment, or sale to a plantation 
far South. Much to the sorrow of our household, Charles was 
carried away, this being the only instance of my father s selling 
a servant. After the war I made inquiries for Charles without 
result, and believe he would have returned to Falmouth had he 
been living. 

Falmouth is a picturesque town, seated amid heights crowned 
with pretty homesteads, and contained then about a thousand 
people. It may be a survival of local pride that prevents my 



12 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

calling it a village. About twenty families might have been 
described fifty years ago as belonging to the old " gentry." 
Their houses though not grand were pretty, with tasteful in 
teriors and beautiful gardens. Several families were wealthy, 
the Croesus being Basil Gordon, who came from Scotland a 
poor boy and became the richest man in Virginia. This Basil 
Gordon, who resided next door to us, was the most picturesque 
figure of that region. To the end of life he wore the powdered 
wig and queue, ruffled shirt, flowing white cravat, dress-coat, 
knee-breeches, shoe-buckles. He had in youth set up a small 
store for the sale of various articles, and earned money enough to 
purchase wheat brought in long bonneted wagons from the 
rich Piedmont region ; he had it made into flour in the Falmouth 
mill, and shipped it on the Rappahannock for England. When 
a fortune was thus made, his family wished him to give up the 
tiny shop, but he kept it in order to give employment to his 
many young relatives who had to be started in business. It was 
a practical joke among the wags to watch the hour when the 
old gentleman visited the store, and the clerks were off at his 
large warehouses, to go in and call for some trifle such as a half- 
pound of sugar or coffee which the venerable millionaire would 
weigh out with gravity and dignity. His only daughter, Anne, 
was a famous beauty, and married Dr. John Hanson Thomas of 
Baltimore. The greater part of Basil Gordon s fortune was 
inherited by his eldest son, Douglas, an intellectual man, who 
was friendly to me in my boyhood. 

Basil Gordon was well acquainted with Mary Washington, 
and I was told that he had been a pallbearer at her funeral ; 
also that when her monument was to be erected at Fredericks- 
burg he identified the spot where she was buried. Recently, 
however, when the quaint and pretty monument of 1832, the 
most interesting in Virginia, was destroyed by sentimental vandals 
from other States to make way for an ugly obelisk, the grave 
was dug into and no trace of any burial or remains found. So 
that the exact grave of Washington s mother remains unknown. 

Falmouth had a rough corner, owing to a superabundance 
of whiskey. On Saturdays, when it was congested by country 
folk, we w T ere not permitted to go into that part. Many of the 
country-folk had to depend on the sobriety of their horses or 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 13 

mules to carry them home. My father, presiding justice of 
Stafford County, was a " total abstainer," and a prohibitionist 
long before the Maine law was heard of. He made an impressive 
appeal to his fellow magistrates in court to stop the sale of 
strong liquors, just after a drunken man, trying to draw water 
from a well, fell in and was drowned. But the era of paternal 
legislation had not arrived. 

Our region swarmed with those called " poor whites," largely 
descended, I always believe, from the convict and contract 
labourers imported from Great Britain in colonial times. Gradu 
ally supplanted by slaves, left without occupation, they 
" squatted " where they could and lived as they could. They 
became expert in fishing and hunting, and their skill in shooting 
made them good soldiers in the Confederate War. As concerned 
their means, they were more benefited by defeat than they 
could have been by triumph much more benefited than were 
the poor negroes. With the abolition of unpaid labour their 
opportunity for employment returned. Moreover, many of the 
" gentry " became " poor whites " also, and that phrase is heard 
no more. It was always a phrase forbidden in genteel families, 
for these " poor whites " had votes, and I remember a campaign 
in which my father s candidate (Democratic) for the Legislature 
was nearly defeated because he (my father) had said, " The 
masses will follow their leaders." 

Party spirit ran high in Stafford County, where the majority 
of well-to-do gentlemen were Whigs, the majority of voters 
Democrats. I remember exciting scenes in Falmouth during 
the presidential campaign of 1840, which resulted in defeat of 
the Democrats. The Democratic candidate was Martin Van 
Buren, an aristocratic Knickerbocker, while the Whigs had this 
time the advantage of a candidate (William Henry Harrison) 
who, though of the old Virginia gentry, had migrated in early 
life to the West, and there resided in a log cabin. That log cabin 
was the ace with which the Whigs trumped the Democracy in 
our county. The cabin was blazoned everywhere. When the 
grandson of that Whig President, the late Benjamin Harrison, 
was a candidate, nothing was said of his grandfather s cabin, 
but much of the Harrison pedigree. 

The party contests were accompanied by bonfires, mass 



I 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

meetings, and barbecues. The children were warm partisans of 
their parental preferences, and many a fagot did I add to the 
Polk-and-Dallas bonfire of 1844. James Knox Polk thus became 
President, though we Democratic boys of Falmouth frankly 
admitted that in securing this victory we received aid from 
adjacent parts of the nation. The defeated candidate was the 
famous Henry Clay. I remember soon afterwards observing on 
grandfather Conway s wall a framed letter written to him by 
Henry Clay, whom he esteemed above all other statesmen. It 
was a momentous discovery that the two men I honoured most- 
father and grandfather were antagonistic in a great issue. 
However, they were both lukewarm in politics. My father had 
once been the party leader, and represented Stafford in the 
Virginia Legislature ; but one such experience was enough ; he 
declined a second candidature, and contented himself with 
insisting on the nomination of competent men. He was offered 
in youth a place at West Point, but declined it, and in later life 
declined an offer of high office at Washington. 

My father, a tall and handsome man, was universally es 
teemed, and singularly free from ambition. His integrity and 
prudence caused him to be burdened by the estates bequeathed 
to his administration and the families left to his guardianship. 
In youth he had been gay much in demand at card parties and 
dances. He was particularly beloved by his Peyton grand 
parents, and mingled in the festivities of " Tusculum." But 
there was among the pious negroes a story which indicated that 
his grandmother Peyton could not rest quiet in her grave because 
of the gaiety of " P," as she called him, which she had en 
couraged. Once, so our oldest negro told me, when he (" Mars 
Peyton ") was returning in the night from a frolic, and riding 
past the graveyard, his grandmother came out and walked 
beside him some distance, entreating him to become religious. 
(The old lady herself was not confirmed until she was sixty, 
and her children were never confirmed at all.) Of course, I 
never mentioned this tale to my father, who scorned every 
superstition not found in the Bible. 

That a gay and handsome youth of high social position 
should all at once unite himself to the poor and ignorant Me 
thodists, of course implied a miracle, but I have a notion that 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 15 

the ghost story had been gradually transferred and developed 
from an incident grandfather Conway related to us of himself. 
While studying law with Judge James Henry of Fleete s Bay, 
he was sent on a horseback journey to Stafford Court House. 
His journey was broken at an inn, where in the early morning, 
before he had risen, he saw a young lady pass through his room 
and vanish. At the Court House he was invited by Dr. Peyton 
to meet the judge and lawyers at his house in the evening. 
When he entered, there stood the lady of his vision, daughter of 
his host. " I knew at once that she was to be my wife ; and 
there," he would add, pointing to grandmother, " there she 
sits." Grandmother was apt to add some playful explanation. 

If any lady was influential in my father s " conversion," she 
was not from a graveyard, but was Miss Margaret Eleanor 
Daniel, who became his wife. Her father died while serving as 
army surgeon in the War of 1812, leaving her to the care of 
her stepmother an amiable lady whom I well remember who 
placed her under the care of John Lewis of Llangollen, my 
mother s uncle by marriage, who trained young men for college.* 
He supervised her education with care, but his wife (my mother s 
aunt) was a tyrannous Calvinist. My mother told me that she 
was kept in a sort of hothouse of Presbyterianism ; and when 
her precocious soul revolted against the dogma of predestination, 
it was decided that she was ill and must be bled. Calvin was 
thus surviving in Virginia, and still demanding the blood of all 
gainsayers. It may readily be understood that she would not 
be suffered to wed a gay and worldly youth, and also that falling 
in love with a pious young lady would naturally sober such a 
youth. 

At the time of my parents marriage, May 28, 1829, the Epis 
copal Church was nearly defunct in our Overwharton parish. 
Of its three churches Potomac, Aquia, and Cedar church in 
Falmouth the former had fallen into ruin, Aquia was without 
regular services, and Cedar church turned into a grain storehouse 

* John Lewis published a volume of poems, and also a clever tale of 
the Great Kanawha, Young Kate ; or, The Rescue. About 1846 he moved 
to Kentucky, where he died in 1853, an< ^ where his descendants still 
reside. His affection for my parents led him a few years before his death 
to make the then difficult journey from Kentucky to Falmouth. 



16 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

(ultimately swept away by a freshet). The Methodists occupied 
the county, and preachers were sent by the Baltimore Con 
ference. At the camp-meetings eloquent preachers from the 
cities assisted, and under one of these orators my father was 
" converted." His father was so shocked that a son should be 
carried away by what he regarded as vulgar fanaticism that a 
stormy scene ensued, and my father, who had barely reached his 
majority, left the paternal house. Grandfather speedily re 
pented of his anger, but this touch of martyrdom brought to my 
father s side three of his sisters and two of his brothers. Thus it 
was that our family became Methodist the first of good social 
position in our region belonging to that sect. My mother gladly 
embraced the Arminian faith of the Methodists, and used to 
quote with merry approval the negro hymn : 

" I never foun no peace nor res 
/Till I jine the Metbodess." 

My grandfather, John Moncure Con way, was for forty-seven 
years clerk of Stafford County. He had in advanced years 
abandoned the queue, but always wore a blue dress-coat with 
brass buttons, a ruffled shirt front, and an ample white cravat, 
with ends flowing through a large gold ring. His house, 
" Erleslie," at Stafford Court House, had a carefully kept flower- 
garden in front, and a mile beyond it was his large well-stocked 
farm, where he liked to stroll before breakfast. On it was a 
wonderful dog, that recognised any alien hog or sheep strayed 
into his herds, and drove it off. He was glad to take me with 
him on his early walks, and his talk was always instructive. In 
his office was framed a fine engraving of Con way Castle, Wales, 
an heirloom brought from England by his American ancestors. 
He was a perfect domestic character, and regarded with boundless 
affection by his children and grandchildren. My grandparents 
had thirteen children, of whom eight had families. 

My grandmother (nee Catherine Storke Peyton) was to her 
numerous grandchildren the queen of the whole world. When 
any school holiday came the joy of it was that they were to go 
to " Erleslie," and how so many children were packed away at 
night is inexplicable. On one side of the house was a playground. 
We had our supper in summer under the apple-trees griddle- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. i; 

cake and molasses, bonny-clabber, preserves. Our aunts at 
tended us, and near by sat " grandma " tall, stately, eyes 
sparkling with humour, her head crowned with a snowy turban, 
clasped with a ruby and a rose. 

My grandfather s first love was for Agnes Conway Moncure, 
but these lovers were double first cousins, and their elders 
regarded the consanguinity as too close for marriage.* Agnes 
married John Robinson, clerk of the Circuit Court of Richmond, f 
Affectionate relations between the Robinsons and my Conway 
grandparents continued to their death, and I was told by a rela 
tive that whenever Mrs. Robinson visited her Moncure relatives 
in Stafford County, my grandmother used to find some pretext 
for sending her husband over to the place of her sojourn without 
accompanying him. He must stay away a day or two while she 
got the house ready for Mrs. Robinson s visit ! The Hon. 
Henry Clay was in youth a deputy clerk under John Robinson. 

The school taught by cousin Betty Gaskins became large, 
various neighbours being permitted to send their children. I 
could not mingle quite freely with either boys or girls. My 
brother Peyton and I were the only Methodist children, and 
even in my eighth year I was precocious enough to feel that I 
had a soul. This poor little soul shrank from the careless frolic 
of my playmates, who no doubt regarded me as a milksop. But 
I had the compensation of the special friendship of my aunt 
Harriet Eustace Conway only four years my senior to whom 
the whole school looked up. She died early, and is enshrined 
in my memory as a perfectly beautiful being. 

My parents, well read in Methodist theology, held strong 
views against fatalism, but there is a fatality also in the " free 
will " faith : it involves being constantly looked after. The 
Presbyterian children, whose conduct and destiny were already 
fixed, enjoyed more freedom than we who were every moment 
determining our eternal weal or woe. We were under a rigid 

* Walker and Anne Conway, brother and sister, married John and 
Anne Moncure, brother and sister, these being the parents of the lovers, 
who were born in the same neighbourhood in Stafford County. 

t They were the parents of the late Conway Robinson, of Washington, 
jurist and historian, and Moncure Robinson, of Philadelphia, eminent 
civil engineer and railway president. 
c 



1 8 MONCURE D. CON WAY. 

regime : two sermons every Sunday besides Sunday school ; 
and only strictly religious reading permitted on that day even 
the fourth page of the " Christian Advocate " being prohibited 
because it was literary and scientific. Our small affairs, actions, 
words, were ascribed everlasting importance, and we lived under 
the suspended sword of Judgment Day. 

The basement of my father s house in Falmouth was fitted 
up for evening prayer-meetings, which were held there twice 
every week. They were usually conducted by the town tailor 
and local preacher, James Petty. I find the scene engraved in 
my memory this fine, intellectual father of mine, accustomed 
to preside over courts, and the refined, elegantly dressed lady 
beside him, surrounded by poor, dusty, patched people, of whom 
some could hardly read. My father had no interests to subserve 
by this devotion to an humble faith, no clients to gain, no votes 
to seek ; his office was not elective, his interests were all the 
other way, for the preachers were supported and the meeting 
houses built mainly out of his purse. Some of those gathered 
in the basement he had picked up out of the ditch. They 
looked up to him with reverence, but in humility he surpassed 
them all. Somehow I to this day think of my handsome father s 
appearance as noblest when seated among those dingy and 
illiterate people. 

My mother was musical and had a fine soprano voice ; I, too, 
developed early a taste and some voice for singing. It was 
through the beautiful Methodist hymns that religious feeling 
reached me. As I sang in the basement second treble to my 
mother, I dreamed of the distant beauties of Palestine, though 
the cedars of Lebanon were thick on our Falmouth hills, and 
no rose of Sharon ever equalled those of our garden. The 
wondrous Judas-tree at our door, and our fig-trees, myrtles, 
fireflies, meadows, crystal streams, all the materials of a paradise 
were around me while I sang of things far off and never to be 
attained. 



CHAPTER III. 

Our Servants "The Preacher s Room" in our House Folklore The 
Falmouth Witch Watch Night Methodist Regime Camp-meet 
ings Immersion of the Blacks Treatment of Slaves Reading the 
Bible The Serpent Visiting Richmond Relatives Entertain 
ments in Fredericksburg The Tournament. 

THE rod was spared in our home, as well for servants as for 
the white children. My parents regarded coloured people as 
immortal souls, and we were trained to treat them with kindness. 
Every Sunday an hour was found for us white and black chil 
dren together to be taught by my mother the catechism and 
listen to careful selections from the Bible. In some way this 
equal treatment of slaves got out, and some officious men came 
with a report that my mother was teaching negroes to read, which 
was illegal. It was not true, but it was prudent to avoid even 
the suspicion of such an offence in the house of a magistrate ; so 
the mixed teaching ceased. But the cause was kept from me, 
and about that time I taught one of our slaves Peter Hum- 
stead, about twenty to read. Why he asked to have his 
lessons in the wood-cellar I did not understand. I must add 
that my lessons were not given gratuitously : Peter knew my 
weakness for fine clothes and contracted to give me a splendid 
necktie, duly paid and by me displayed the first mannish 
thing I ever wore. I have a dim remembrance that this finery 
brought some ridicule on me, and was not enjoyed long ; but 
Peter Humstead learned to read. 

My mother s prayers were earnest and even eloquent. In 
the prayer-meetings in our basement she was always called on 
after my father to pray, and in his absence she conducted family 
prayers. Her voice was sympathetic and her command of 
language wonderful. Had she been born a Quaker she would 
probably have been a famous minister in that society. In the 
Methodist " Love Feasts," where the " experiences " uttered 



20 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

were usually cant, my mother opened her heart with almost 
passionate fervour. 

A large room was set apart in our house as " The Preacher s 
Room," and it was rarely unoccupied. The solemn black garb, 
white cravats, and broad-brims of these guests impressed 
me ; two of the most pious were discovered to be impostors, 
but the majority were honest, hell-fearing men. Once there 
stopped with us for a day or two a preacher dressed in extremely 
coarse homespun, and without any buttons John Hersey by 
name. Some of us could not help laughing at his appearance ; 
but he told my father that in early life he had run into debt, 
which he was endeavouring to pay ; he was determined to limit 
himself to the barest necessities of life, both as to food and 
clothing, until he had repaid every cent. In later years I heard 
him still in homespun garb preach an eloquent sermon in 
Georgetown. 

The Rev. Jesse White had the look and reputation of a saint. 
One day when he was seated with my father in our front hall, a 
man rushed up the steps and said to Mr. White, " I am grievously 
tormented by a devil ; I beseech you cast him out of me." The 
meek minister said, " My friend, I have no such power." " Oh, 
yes, you have," said the possessed one ; " you have only to 
order him, he will obey." The preacher, by an impulse, cried, 
" I charge you come out of him ! " " Thank you," said the 
man, " the devil has quite left me," and with a bow went off 
smiling. 

Our Falmouth folk-lore was mostly of the familiar kind one 
or two houses " haunted," an occasional ghost reported ; but 
the serpent-lore impressed me because of my firm faith that the 
Devil was a serpent. A horsehair left in a tub of rainwater 
would turn to a snake ; a snake could charm a bird into his 
mouth ; any deficiency of milk in a cow was ascribed to the 
" cowsucker " (black snake). 

At Tappahannock, lower down on the river, an approaching 
defeat of the Democratic party at an election was heralded by 
a phantom scow floating on the river with negroes singing and 
dancing on it. 

Iron rings were worn to cure fits. (George Washington 
mentions without comment the use of an iron ring at Mount 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 21 

Vernon to cure Patsy Custis.) Various herbs were used to 
cure warts, the herb after application being always buried. 

Once the seventeen-year locusts swarmed in our woods, de 
vouring the green tissue in every leaf. On each wing was the 
letter " W," betokening " War," and their united cry of 
" Pharaoh " prophesied the plagues of Egypt. The locusts 
came near enough to the Mexican War and to the deadly Spotted 
Tongue plague that scourged our county, to appear prophetic. 
But the greatest sensation was caused by the comet of 1843. 
There was a widespread panic, similar, it was said, to that caused 
by the meteors of 1832. Apprehending the approach of Judg 
ment Day, crowds besieged the shop of Mr. Petty, our preaching 
tailor, invoking his prayers. Methodism reaped a harvest from 
the comet. The negroes, however, were not disturbed ; they 
were, I believe, always hoping to hear Gabriel s trump.* 

Belief in witchcraft prevailed among the " poor whites," and 
negroes, but I never heard of a coloured witch or wizard. Our 
Falmouth witch was one Nancy Calamese, who lived alone in a 
small shanty just outside the town. I remember her as a small, 
thin woman of sixty, with sharp features and a hunted look in 
her large grey eyes. She could hardly appear in the village 
without being shunned, and at length the suspicion that she 
had bewitched several persons caused her to be railed at and 
stoned on the street. Nancy had a sharp tongue for her pur 
suers ; she drank pretty deeply ; but she was never charged 
with any crime, and her means of subsistence were unknown. 
No one could tell whence she came, and there was about her a 
distinction of some kind, as compared with the " poor whites," 
which seemed to the latter uncanny. The persecutions of this 
woman excited the sympathy of my mother, who now and then 
visited her, and told me that she found everything neat in Nancy s 
shanty, a pretty flower-bed behind it, and the woman herself 
fairly intelligent. Finally, however, life became intolerable for 
poor Nancy Calamese. One afternoon, on my return from school, 

* My cousin, Augusta Daniel, told me of one woman who declared in 
meeting that she had heard Gabriel s trump. There were murmurs of 
incredulity, and she began to weep at having her word doubted. But 
the preacher said, " After all, brethren, perhaps Gabriel did give the 
poor sister a toot or two ! " 



22 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I saw a crowd gazing out on the Rappahannock River, where 
Nancy was steadily wading on, and presently perished. Her 
history was never known. 

My parents were impatient with contemporary superstitions. 
There was a large house, long uninhabited, on a hill across the 
river, where our servants said they had seen lights in the night. 
I mentioned this to my father, and he said, " Jack o lantern 
probably," and went on with his papers, leaving me to wonder 
who Jack was, and what kind of lantern he had. That night I 
suffered the nightmare of being seized by a goblin, shut up in a 
lantern, and hurried through the air to the lonely house. It 
was too terrible to be forgotten, but I was ashamed to mention 
it. We were taught that belief in ghosts and witches was vulgar, 
and I sometimes wonder what my parents thought of biblical 
ghost-lore and the witch of Endor. An instance occurred of a 
young lady s belief that she had committed the " unpardonable 
sin," and it was spoken of by my parents as insanity. A very 
pious Methodist " sister " was said to have attained " entire 
sanctification," an experience recognised by Methodism ; but 
my parents, much as they esteemed her, were silent, and I feel 
certain that they regarded it as morbid. 

Watch Night was kept in the basement of our house. A 
minute before midnight of the departing year we all knelt (the 
servants with us), and, kneeling until after midnight, sang the 
New Year s hymn, whose opening verses are : 

Come let us anew 
Our journey pursue, 
Roll round with the year 
And never stand still till the Master appear. 

h 

His adorable will 

Let us gladly fulfil, 
And our talents improve 
By the patience of hope, and the labour of love. 

Some years later we kept Watch Night in the church, but 
the occasion and the hymn never affected me so much as when 
we knelt and sang in our basement. 

Although my father took his Methodism so seriously, he had 
a fine sense of humour, and many a hearty laugh did he give us 
by his descriptions of droll incidents at " meetings." At one of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 23 

the revivals he saw a man stagger a little as he went up to the 
" mourner s bench " to be prayed for. Beckoning Mr. Petty, 
my father said, " Take that man away, he s drunk ! " Petty 
replied, " Indeed, brother Conway, if we don t get some of these 
people when they re drunk, we ll not get them at all ! " Another 
story related to a little place called " White Oak," in which it 
was said not one sober man or woman could be found, and where 
all sins were considered customary. At length, however, the 
Methodist preachers assisted, perhaps, by the comet got up 
a revival at White Oak, after which a congregation was organised. 
But there was difficulty about appointing officers ; every " con 
vert " proposed had been notorious as a drunkard, rogue, or 
wife-beater. After several had been set aside, a man arose and 
said, " Brethren, it pears to me that ef the Lord wants a church 
at White Oak, he s got to take the materials to be found at 
White Oak." This suggestion prevailed, and White Oak began 
a reformation that ultimately improved it off the earth. 

But while my parents were amused by its grotesque side, it 
was I am certain, mainly the work of Methodism among these 
humble and often laughable people that they valued. Methodism 
was a temperance organisation, and the only one in our county ; 
it was the only active society for charity and humanitarian 
effort ; it had little or nothing to do with dogmas, but a great deal 
to do with morality. And in Stafford County it mainly rested 
on my parents and my three Methodist aunts. None of these 
realised the way in which I was taking these things to heart nor 
the extent to which I was burdened by the otherworldliness of 
our negroes. I was encouraged to take healthy recreations 
swimming, fishing, skating, shooting and restrained only from 
cards and dancing ; but I was sadly serious. I clung to the 
preachers, to my elders, and sang hymns about the vileness of 
a world I had not entered, and about death. 

The world is all a fleeting show 

For man s delusion given : 
Its smiles of joy, its tears of woe, 
Deceitful shine, deceitful flow, 

There s nothing true but heaven. 

I m a pilgrim, and I m a stranger, 
I can tarry, I can tarry but a night. 



24 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Our life is a dream ; 
Our time as a stream 
Glides swiftly away. 

Oh, tell me no more of this world s vain store, 
The time for such trifles with me now is o er 

Hark from the tomb a doleful sound 

My ears attend the cry : 
" Ye living men, come view the ground 
Where you must shortly lie ! " 

The great function of the year was the Methodist Camp- 
meeting. My father always had the largest tent in the selected 
forest, and for over a week there was a grand barbaric picnic. 
The tents were pitched around a large amphitheatre, where 
there were benches for several thousand, under arches of small 
lamps stretched between the trees. Immediately in front of 
the platform on which sat a score of preachers there was a 
large enclosure for the " mourners." There were three sermons 
daily, each followed by a prayer-meeting, but the great scene 
was at night, when there occurred a pitched battle with Satan 
to rescue souls. The loud excited singing of .the throng was 
thrilling ; the preachers walked about the platform crying, 
" Now is the accepted time ! " " Call upon him while he is 
near ! " etc. Brethren went up the forest aisles, watching for 
any sign of emotion, any bowed head, and one after another 
" under conviction " was led up to the " throne of grace " to be 
welcomed by shouts of " Glory ! " " Hallelujah ! " Every now 
and then amid the loud pleadings of prayer there was a scream 
out of some terrified heart, some pale face falling back in swoon 
or trance, the crowd of curious gazers pressing forward to see. 
My own curiosity often led me to go behind the platform ; there 
the negroes received such crumbs of grace as fell from the white 
penitents table. Nevertheless with these crumbs they had a 
paradise unknown to white Dives ; they had few or no mourners, 
all of them being long ago " converted," and all now in ecstasy. 
Their spiritual clock always struck noon. 

But Dives came to dislike these camp-meetings ; they involved 
the demoralisation of farm service for the week. And religious 
people remarked another kind of demoralisation among the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 25 

whites ; there was a large flow of whiskey on the outskirts, a 
good deal of horse-trading, and the increase of piety was said to 
be purchased by an increase of immorality. I have my doubts 
about this, and on the whole have rather regretted the gradual 
extinction of the happy festival. 

It has always remained with me a pleasant reflection that 
the simple-hearted negroes escaped the dogmatic discords of 
our religion. As we were remote from all heresies, Catholic or 
Protestant, the only burning issues were Sprinkling versus 
Immersion, and Free Will versus Predestination. The Baptists 
were predestinarian, the Methodists represented Free Will, but 
the negroes were both Baptist and Methodist ; they clung to 
immersion and clung to the Methodist hymns and ecstasy. Thus 
did each coloured brother and sister easily reconcile the irre 
concilable. 

The immersion of the coloured people was always a pictur 
esque and affecting scene. Dressed in white cotton fabric of 
which their chain was made they moved under the Sunday 
morning sunshine across the sands opposite our house to the 
river, and there sang gently and sweetly. There was no noise 
or shouting. The rite was performed by a white minister. After 
immersion each was embraced by his or her relatives. There was 
more singing, and the procession moved slowly away. White 
converts were immersed separately from the negroes, but they 
were few, and the performance was by no means so impressive. 

No cruelty to negroes occurred in the houses or on the farms 
of any families in which we were intimate. Servants were some 
times flogged, but with no more severity and with less frequency 
than white children. A certain man who dishonoured the name 
of a reputable family by lashing his slave so severely that he 
soon after died, so shocked the county that the tradition of that 
manslaughter remains to this day. I remember well my father s 
efforts to bring the manslayer to justice unavailing because 
only slaves witnessed the tragedy. Fury rarely overbore the 
slaveowner s need to keep his property in good condition. The 
only instance of brutality that I personally witnessed was at 
Stafford Court House, where a coarse man had charged four 
female slaves with an attempt to poison him. There was no 
real evidence, and some believed that it was an effort to obtain 



26 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

for the elderly and unmarketable women the payment the 
county must make if they were executed. When the women 
were acquitted their owner took them out to his cart, bound 
them by their wrists to the back of it, ordered the driver to go 
on, tore down the dresses from their backs, and lashed them 
with a raw -hide until the cart disappeared on the road. A 
crowd witnessed this scene, and though there were mutterings 
none could interfere. The horror made an ineffaceable impression 
on me, though I was too young to generalise on it. 

Deeply engraved also on my memory is a small, prison-like 
building in the centre of Falmouth, known as " Captain Pickett s," 
where negroes were sent to be flogged. The captain was the 
town constable, and one of his functions was to whip negroes 
when their owners so ordered. Although warned by my parents 
against loitering about " Captain Pickett s," this whetted my 
curiosity, and with other boys I heard the imploring tones of 
the sufferers. I remember the captain silently walking up and 
down in front of his grim house, with his iron-grey hair and beard, 
never smiling, never uttering a word from his compressed lips. 
When I had left Falmouth, and thought of him as the local 
figure-head of an evil system, I heard of his suicide. 

It was many years before I could do the poor captain justice. 
As a matter of fact, the old constable was simply presiding at 
the last relic of the whipping post. The long dilapidated stocks 
were still visible near the churchyard, where they had stood at 
the door of Cedar Church. The whipping-post had hid itself in 
the constable s office. But I now have reason to believe that in 
that lonely den many a stripe fell gently, and that Captain 
Pickett hung himself simply because the shame of being an 
official negro-whipper became intolerable. The whipping-post 
ended with Captain Pickett. The last tidings I had of his building 
was that it was used as a storehouse of Federal bombs.* 

Although the slavedealers gathered their harvests in our 

* A man belonging to a wealthy citizen (Murray Forbes) had to be 
flogged on some complaint of a neighbour. Mr. Forbes intimated to 
Captain Pickett his hope that he would be merciful. Pickett said, " Mr. 
Forbes, there is not a more tender-hearted man in Falmouth than I am." 
The negro told his master, " Captain Pickett told me to holler, and I 
hollered, but the cowhide fell on the post." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 27 

region, it was in large part surreptitiously. It was socially dis 
reputable for a man to sell slaves to them, or indeed to part the 
members of families on his estate further than by hiring them 
to neighbours. Hiring-day in Falmouth was not often marked 
by unhappy scenes, as the increase of slaves in every homestead 
made it more comfortable for many of them to find new homes. 
The troubles arose when the death of some gentleman in debt 
necessitated the sale of his property. 

The word " slave " was not used. We spoke of " free negroes " 
and " servants." Those were the happy days of inconsistency. 
Our Fourth-of-July orators talked grandly of the enormity of 
taxation without representation," and the right of every man 
to " life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness " ; but the bondage 
of millions of dusky human beings was never thought of as a 
thing even to be explained in those days. For myself I did not 
know our servants were slaves, and daresay I repeated in the 
kitchen my favourite school declamation ending " Give me 
Liberty or give me Death ! " Also, I have a vague remembrance 
of envying the little blacks their greater freedom ; most of them 
had nothing to do but roam and play. 

My brother Peyton and I were on affectionate terms with 
the servants. They helped us in all our little projects, such as 
raising poultry and pigeons. Considerable patches of ground 
were given us on the Ingle wood farm, where we competed as to 
which could raise the finest melons. We had varieties of water 
melons and " muskmelons," which we sold at high prices to 
our father, and at table showed our high appreciation of their 
excellence. The only particular pet I ever had was an ugly 
duckling ; it was wounded by a rat and had to be killed, and 
I was so heartbroken that I never ventured to have another 
animal pet. My affections were lavished on my little sister 
Mildred, five years younger than myself, and our tender relation 
to each other remains unbroken by the eventualities of life. 

I won some distinction among Falmouth boys for skill in 
making willow whistles and playing on them, and for plumping 
marbles. I also had several other fair accomplishments, es 
pecially in making tiny mill-wheels in imitation of that which 
turned my father s cotton-factory. But I was not popular 
among my comrades. I was homely, was not spirited, and was 



28 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

a poor creature beside my handsome and dashing brother Peyton, 
always ready to wrestle or fight things I hated. I worshipped 
rather precociously the beautiful ladies of Falmouth, and numer 
ous aunts and cousins from the country, of whom some were 
always visiting us. I did their errands and attended on them 
with eagerness, and they were so gracious to me that I cared 
little for the boys. Moreover, I was beginning to form friend 
ships with people met in story-books. Much as I disliked play 
ground squabbles, I found it pleasant to assist at the slaughter 
of dragons. It was an era in my childish life when I journeyed 
with Christian to the Celestial City, past Apollyon and other 
foes not yet belonging to Fairyland. By fairy tales in " The 
Child s Own Book," by the "Arabian Nights," by "The Pil 
grim s Progress," dreams were built on the stuff of me ; I was 
surrounded with a sleep a source of dreams and my little life 
was rounded out thereby. 

If I could have found the Bible, as I did the " Arabian Nights," 
among the old volumes, mainly medical, shelved in our bedroom 
(they had belonged to grandfather Daniel s library), as an un 
known book, perhaps I should have found equal delight in it. 
But the sanctity attached to it, the duty of getting it by heart, 
the daily impressed belief that it concerned my salvation, made 
it a sealed book. Joseph and his Brethren, Moses in the Bul 
rushes, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, were all pale beside 
Aladdin, AH Baba, and the rest, amid whom fancy could roam 
with free wing. 

The Bible was associated with blue and red tickets con 
vertible into other religious books. At Sunday school a certain 
number of Scripture verses recited from memory were rewarded 
with a blue ticket ; a certain number of blue tickets secured a 
red one ; a certain number of the red if I recall the colours 
correctly enabled the holder to acquire any volume he might 
select from prize shelves prettily supplied by the Methodist Book 
Concern. I began with Genesis and memorised straight on, 
omitting nothing except perhaps long genealogies, and this was 
continued for years. I do not remember having been prevented 
by any teacher from reciting the obscene passages, and I was too 
Arcadian to discover anything indecent in the Bible. The 
Hindus say, " He that has no wound may touch poison." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 29 

There was a little book in our house entitled " Keeper in 
Search of his Master " the story of a lost dog s suffering from 
hunger and maltreatment over which I shed burning tears. 
From it I gained some sense of the feelings of animals, and from 
the tales of Maria Edgeworth I learned more about the value 
of kindliness and generosity than I got from the Bible. 

I think the first thing that impressed me in the Bible was 
the snake in Eden. My horror of snakes was indiscriminate ; 
the first duty of man on seeing that crawling devil was to kill 
it. Dr. Adam Clarke in his Commentary, a favourite book with 
my father, suggested that before its sentence to crawl the 
serpent was a kind of ape. My father told the anecdote of a 
preacher, who cried, " If you don t repent, Dr. Clarke s ape will 
catch you ! " He was amused, but I was shocked by the theory 
and the laughter. Levity was out of place in such a grave 
matter. 

Travelling circuses sometimes visited Fredericksburg, and 
once once only I was permitted to go. What w r as my horror 
on seeing a young woman handle a huge serpent affection 
ately ! Here were Eve and the Devil. I knew what was 
meant by my father s dislike of " sinful amusements " ; my 
conscience took his side, and I never petitioned to go to 
another circus. 

Another time my father startled me. He was conversing 
with some preacher and said, " I do not think Solomon s Song 
ought to be in the Bible at all." What my feeling was I cannot 
of course, remember, but the incident stands in my memory 
after sixty years. 

Cousin Elizabeth Daniel, daughter of United States Justice 
Daniel, sometimes came to us from Richmond for a visit. She 
was distinguished for her intelligence and culture. No doubt 
she remarked the interest with which I listened to her conversa 
tions with my mother, which were chiefly on authors Dickens, 
Scott, Byron, Southey, Moore, and others and took notice of 
me. When I was about ten this cousin, after one of her visits, 
requested me to write to her. So began a correspondence which 
continued several years. I developed some thoughts by the 
effort to express them, and exactness of statement by the ex 
treme pains I took in writing to the accomplished lady who 



30 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

honoured me with her attention. Above all, some faith in my 
homely and shy self was engendered in me by her extended 
letters. These were not condescending nor patronising, but 
written as to a friend. Being herself an Episcopalian, she never 
wrote on doctrinal topics, but generally about books. 

Probably I was just a little secularised by this interchange of 
thoughts unconnected with religion. Also I found the Methodist 
regime sufficiently elastic to admit not only the luxuries of our 
table, but beautiful moonlit evenings on the Rappahannock. 
The ladies carried their guitars, the gentlemen their flutes. 
There, silently crouched beside some affectionate aunt or cousin, 
I learned Moore s melodies by heart, and old Scotch songs 
never to be thought of thenceforth as mere poetry, but as my 
heart s honey dew. Late in life, in printing something about 
Virginia I spoke of " the crystal Rappahannock." I learned 
that some aged people there regarded the river as normally 
muddy, and that indeed might be expected of a stream coming 
from the mountains, and at Falmouth dashing over falls. All I 
can say is that in early boyhood I used to see sweet faces and 
pure skies in its waters, and feel certain that it was then the 
crystal Rappahannock. 

The great and sensational events of our early boyhood (brother 
Peyton and myself) were two visits to Richmond. What splen 
dour ! On the first visit we stayed at the house of Justice Daniel, 
who was at home, and he and his wife (she was a daughter of 
Edmund Randolph, first attorney-general of the United States) 
and their daughters Elizabeth and Anne, and their brother 
Peter, were gracious and charming to us. Our cousin John 
Moncure Daniel, then studying law in Richmond, took us about 
to show us the capital and other notable things. Richmond was 
thenceforth the city called Beautiful, and it remained so after 
a subsequent visit to our young cousins in the home of uncle 
Travers and aunt Susan Daniel. There was a soiipgon of worldli- 
ness there too, refreshing to our little Methodist souls, for they 
taught us a card game (" seven-up "). We had never seen a 
pack of cards before, and it was many a year before I saw another. 

Public amusements were unknown to Falmouth. Once when 
a band of " Buy-a-broom " girls in picturesque costumes went 
from door to door with their little white brooms, it was as ex- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 31 

citing as an opera. I can see them now with their strange faces, 
their graceful gestures, and hear their song : 

Buy a bro-o-m, buy a bro-o-m ! 
Buy a bro-o-m, buy a bro-o-m ! 
O buy of the wandering Bavarian 
A Broom ! 

They carried off our pocket-money, and left a lot of worthless 
sticks terminating with shavings, but also left a melody that I 
can sing to-day. Once we had in Fredericksburg astronomic 
lectures with magic lantern from Dr. Lardner. Another course 
was from Dr. Goadby of London on zoology ; in one of these he 
made a statement about rats that I never forgot. He said the 
rat had humanlike tastes ; if two jars of preserves one sweetened 
with loaf sugar, the other with brown were left near rats, they 
would consume the loaf sugar preserves before touching the 
brown sugar jar. My idea of the rat was revolutionised. I 
should not myself be so particular. 

Now and then a famous singer stopped for one or two evenings 
and sang in Fredericksburg Town Hall. Henry Bishop was long 
remembered, and I almost shudder now in recalling his dramatic 
rendering of " The Maniac," and one or two other thrilling com 
positions of his. 

The Tournament was still an institution in our neighbour 
hood. It took place annually in a long lane on the Spottsyl- 
vania side of the river. The young men from various counties, 
mounted on their decorated steeds, tilted at the suspended ring, 
and the victor received his wreath, kneeling, from the Queen of 
Love and Beauty, surrounded by her maids of honour on a 
splendid platform. These were the beautiful and refined ladies 
of northern Virginia. It was an important social event, and the 
chief relic of the ancient fair and horse-race for which our region 
was once famous, but on which the kill-joy preachers had frowned. 
The puritanical spirit steadily blighting the gaieties of old Vir 
ginia did not long spare the Tournament and the annual ball. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Fredericksburg Academy Charles Dickens in Virginia The Law Courts 
Judge Moncure Falmouth Church John Minor The Methodist 
Conventicle St. George s First Religious Emotions. 

IN my tenth year I was sent to the " Fredericksburg Classical 
and Mathematical Academy," the principal educational institu 
tion in northern Virginia. The academy grew out of the school 
founded by the admirable clergyman of French descent, James 
Marye, to which George Washington went just a hundred years 
before. Our principal, Thomas Hanson, taught Greek and Latin 
in the central building, other studies being in the wings under 
two assistants. The " scholars " were of many counties, and 
most of the historic families of Virginia were represented, though 
probably few of the youths knew or cared about their ancestors. 
I believe I was the youngest pupil, the ages ranging mostly be 
tween twelve and seventeen. The academy was under the 
auspices of St. George s Church, whose venerable rector, Dr. 
Edward C. McGuire, occasionally visited us. 

The Falmouth contingent was large, and there was some 
" chaffing " between them and the Fredericksburg scholars. 
These called our village " Hogtown," alleging that hogs were 
seen in the streets, and we retorted with " Sheeptown," with 
what connotation I cannot remember. But this exchange of 
epithets caused no fights, albeit among us (about 200) there 
was a normal proportion of bullies, and fisticuffs were not un 
common in the acre lot behind the school. Our recess games 
were chiefly chermany and bandy (" hockey "). An accidental 
blow from a bandystick on my right eye laid me up in darkness, 
with leeches. Though there was no visible sequel at the time, 
the eye became dim in after years, and finally became near 
sighted. 

Most of us were preparing for some college, and the keys to 
every college were Latin and Greek. To these our time was 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 33 

mainly given, our readings being in " Grseca Majora," and in 
school editions of Latin classics. I liked these studies, but hated 
mathematics. I found delight in " The Scholar s Companion," 
from which we learned the Greek and Latin origin of many 
English words. My distinction was in penmanship ; it was agreed 
that no rival could equal my pen-printing of German and other 
ornamental lettering. Once grandfather Conway asked me to 
show him some of my penmanship. I prepared with pains 
imitations of the signatures of himself, of my father, and uncles. 
" Wonderful indeed," he said ; then patting me on the head, he 
added with a smile, " Yes, it is perfect, and I hope you ll never 
do it again ! " I wondered, but his word was law, and my 
facsimiles ended. 

Mr. Hanson " Old Tommy "was an excellent teacher. He 
kept a switch beside him, but rarely used it, and his assistants 
were not permitted to inflict corporal punishment. He often 
made occasion to stimulate our sense of honour and instruct us 
in conduct and kindness. There was no religious teaching be 
yond the daily opening with Scripture and a scarce-audible prayer. 
Equality prevailed among us. No one had any advantage in 
belonging to any wealthy or historic family. The ancestral 
cult which arose with the national centenaries was unknown. 
Never did I heard George Washington or any other American 
celebrity held up as an exemplar. And this was the case not 
only in our school, but in the community ; with the exception 
that Mary, the mother of Washington, was held up as a model 
of piety, and a place pointed out near her monument where she 
was said to have retired for prayer. 

I got high marks in Latin and Greek, but had no enjoyment 
in the books read. Later I found among the old books of grand 
father Daniel English translations of Virgil s " JEneid " and 
Ovid s "Metamorphoses," and read them with delight, though I 
had gone through both in the original without much interest 
save in the mark I was to get. Mr. Hanson, who had enthusiasm 
for classical literature, fancied, I think, that he had in me a ten- 
year-old appreciator of the same. Sometimes on returning to 
the school after recess he might have observed me at my desk 
and supposed that the playground was left for the charms of 
Caesar or Horace. But it was for pastimes with " Oliver Twist," 

D 



34 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

" Little Nell," or other creations of my Prospero, whose masque 
filled our prosaic streets. 

Charles Dickens came like one of our Rappahannock freshets, 
which once or twice rose high enough to float logs in our wood- 
cellar. Methodist prejudices against novel-reading were in this 
case floated, and I remember my parents laughing and weeping 
over the books of " Boz " while I was only old enough to build 
infant romances out of Cruikshank s illustrations. Dickens sup 
plied our homes with new fables, phrases, types. Our neighbour 
Douglas Gordon broke a small blood-vessel laughing over Pick 
wick, and we pitied him not for the lesion, but because his doctor 
forbade him to read Dickens. My baby brother Richard ac 
quired by his infant excitability the sobriquet " Tim Linkin- 
water." 

In 1842 news came that Charles Dickens had arrived in 
America, and presently it was announced that on a certain day 
he was to pass through Fredericksburg on his way to Richmond. 

He was to come by steamboat from Washington to Aquia 
landing, thence by stage to Fredericksburg, alighting only for 
lunch at Farmer s Hotel. The prospect of setting eyes on the 
greatest man in the world filled me with such emotion that my 
parents agreed that I might in their name ask Mr. Hanson for 
the necessary permission to leave school a little before the midday 
recess. The usage when we wished to leave the schoolroom 
temporarily was to stand silently before the master. This I 
did, but he happened to be irritated by someone in the class he 
was hearing, and motioned me off. On my endeavouring to say 
I had permission of my parents he ordered me to my seat. Thither 
I returned, jumped out of an open window, seven or eight feet 
from the ground, and reached the inn just as the author was 
alighting. On my return to school just after recess, there was a 
dead silence ; my leap had been observed by many, and none 
knew the reason for it. Mr. Hanson stood pale and agitated, 
for I had been hitherto obedient. My brother Peyton was absent, 
and I was too much dazed by the situation to arrest by any plea 
the impending switch. It was the only flogging I ever received 
in school, and feeling that it was unmerited I bore it without a 
word or a tear. 

But tout comprendre, c est tout pardonner. The dear old 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 35 

master when he learned the whole story was more troubled than 
I was, for I had got a good look at Dickens. During my re 
maining five years in the school he treated me w r ith a sort of 
affection, and when I left and entered college in my sixteenth 
year he announced the fact in school, and uttered a eulogy on 
my conduct and diligence. 

My most lasting education in all those years was in the law 
courts, and in listening to discussions of cases in our house. My 
opportunities were of the best. Two of my father s brothers 
were prominent lawyers, John Moncure and Eustace, and the 
latter became an eminent judge. My grandfather Conway, clerk 
of the county, had been educated for the bar. His eldest daughter 
married Richard Moncure, afterwards the Chief Justice of Vir 
ginia. On my mother s side, her uncle Peter Daniel was a 
justice of the United States Supreme Court, and her brother 
Travers Daniel, long attorney-general of Virginia, had a wide 
reputation for learning and eloquence. My father s position 
as presiding magistrate of the county brought many lawyers to 
our house for consultation. When some great case was to be 
argued in Fredericksburg, especially when one of my uncles 
was to speak, I was permitted to go to the courthouse at cost of 
a brief absence from school. My vacations were mostly passed 
at " Erleslie," and in the court-house I found my theatre, and 
witnessed many a comedy and tragedy. I can still hear the 
ringing laughter attending the efforts of lawyers to trip each 
other, or the witnesses. Face after face of the prisoners rise 
before me. Opposite the court-house was the gaol, a whited 
sepulchre to my eyes, from whose small grated apertures looked 
murderous phantoms. I see them brought out, handcuffed, and 
follow them to the court-room, and feel the awe of a fellow- 
man dragged prematurely before the bar of God, where the 
balances are produced, and all the deeds of his life cast into their 
scale. It was of course the murder cases that made the deepest 
impression. The juries consisted of men whom I was accus 
tomed to see in their commonplace work, but after I had seen 
them in court with faces intent for hours in trying to get at the 
fact and the truth, these neighbours were never common again. 

In murder cases it was necessary that uncle Richard Moncure, 
the prosecuting attorney, should be confronted with a powerful 



36 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

advocate, and when one had to be appointed by the court the 
defence was often entrusted to the elder John L. Marye of Freder- 
icksburg. He was in appearance as French as his great-grand 
father James Marye, who came from Europe to preach to the 
Huguenots in Virginia and founded St. George s Church in 
Fredericksburg and the first school there. From Marye s inter 
estingly homely countenance there was unsheathed in pleading a 
spirit which often filled me with wonder. When he appeared in 
the Stafford court-room everybody knew that some prisoner s 
case was hard to defend. It was said that before entering on 
his final speech in defence, Marye slipped over to the inn and 
drank two cups of a tear-producing tea. The pathos and the 
tears invariably came. 

I remember a speech by Marye in which a question of inter 
preting a person s compromising utterance was raised. The 
advocate warned the jury against taking words at foot of the 
letter, and claimed that the prosecutor (uncle Richard), good 
churchman as he was, would not venture to take literally the 
words of Jesus, If a man smite thee on one cheek turn to him 
the other. " And," he added, " if a thief were to steal my 
honoured friend s cloak, would he give the rogue his coat also ? " 
Uncle Richard made no special reply to these words, and they 
sank deep into my mind. 

While at the bar uncle Richard steadily refused to advocate 
any case, whatever the fee offered, in which he detected any 
injustice. This was so well known that when he did undertake 
any case it was generally equivalent to a judicial decision. The 
lawyers were said to be much relieved when he was transferred 
to the bench. 

Again and again, as prosecuting attorney, did he take some 
criminal, unable to procure competent counsel, under his pro 
tection, and see that in the face of public prejudice justice did 
not swerve. I remember vividly a scene of this kind. A very 
brutal rogue, notorious for his violence, had killed a man, and 
there was general satisfaction that the county was now to get 
rid of him by the gallows. He was a criminal of very repulsive 
appearance, and his defiant glare around the court-room excited 
horror and wrath. The crowd already saw the noose round his 
bull-like neck. Uncle Richard arose and calmly said, " May it 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 3; 

please your Honour, I mean to prosecute this man for murder 
in the second degree." Murmurs of surprise and anger were 
heard. During this manifestation the prosecutor said not a 
word, but seemed to be absorbed in arranging his papers. When 
he began his speech it was with sublime sentences concerning 
justice. Then he proceeded to show that it was a case of homi 
cide which, albeit guilty, was committed without any deadly 
weapon, and that there was no evidence of deliberation. 

In my novel " Pine and Palm " I have disguised in " Judge 
Stirling " traits of this beloved uncle, whose greatness of mind 
and character raised above me a standard to which I have always 
paid homage. There was such intimacy between him and my 
father and their families, that this uncle s house, Glencairn, was 
another home to me. No word of unkindness, thoughtlessness,, 
or of depreciation, ever came from him. Affectionate, simple, 
full of sympathy and humour, we could always approach him ; 
and occasionally, when on his way to his office, in a separate 
building, he would pause a few moments to join in our outdoor 
sport. 

There was a wide impression in the county that Chief Justice 
Moncure was a child outside his profession ; and among the 
illustrations of this it was told that on seeing his negroes removing 
a cider-press, he undertook to help them by supporting a cross 
beam with his shoulder, in order that it might not be broken by 
a fall. In this effort he struggled until his face was red, and at 
last cried, " I can support it no longer it must fall get out 
of the way ! " His shoulder was withdrawn, but the beam 
remained fixed in the air, and it took the workmen some time 
to get it down. 

On one occasion a deputation of jurists journeyed from 
Richmond to Glencairn to consult him on some important matter, 
and found him in his front garden, green bag in hand, playing 
puss-in-the-corner with the children among these being a little 
negro boy, who was just calling out, " Now run, Mars Dick ! " 

Among the many legends concerning the later life of this 
Chief Justice one tells that when he was very ill at Staunton, 
where the court was sitting, and felt his end near, he reminded 
his wife that their pecuniary circumstances had been much 
reduced since the war, and begged her not to carry his body to 



38 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Glencairn for burial. The State, he said, would defray the 
expenses of his burial wherever he died, and the cost of the re 
moval of his body to Stafford would be heavy. His wife, over 
whelmed with grief, said that she must refuse what might be 
his last request. In vain he entreated, and at length exclaimed, 
" Then I ll not die here at all ! " And sure enough he arose and 
lived several years after. He died in 1882, and was buried in 
the family graveyard at Glencairn. 

Uncle Richard perceived my fondness for reading, and some 
times took me to his office and sat me in a corner with a book. 
One afternoon I was absorbed in an old law book on Medical 
Jurisprudence, which contained examples of mental and moral 
delusion. Optical and other spectres were raised and laid, 
ghosts legally analysed, and the problems of responsibility dealt 
with in a lucid way which enabled me to take some steps in real 
thinking. 

Sometimes uncle Richard talked to me about our academy, 
my favourite studies, my schoolmates, of whose parents or 
ancestors he related pleasant anecdotes. Of religion he never 
spoke to me. He was the most eminent layman of the Epis 
copal Church in northern Virginia, and represented St. George s 
parish in the great church conventions, but he rarely conversed 
about doctrines. He hated all intolerance. When someone 
spoke sharply of a clergyman s leaning toward " Mariolatry," 
uncle Richard said, " If we reverence Jesus we would naturally 
reverence his mother." When I first met him after becoming 
a Unitarian, he treated me with the wonted affection, and made 
no allusion to my change of faith. 

One judicial action of Chief Justice Moncure is of historical 
interest in connection with slavery. Our neighbour, Mrs. Coalter, 
bequeathed freedom to her numerous slaves. But after the 
clause of liberation the will said that if her negroes preferred to 
remain in slavery they might select their masters. The hus 
band of the heir contended that the clause giving the slaves this 
choice, not legal in Virginia, invalidated the liberating clause. 
The case reached the Court of Appeals, and a majority of the 
court sustained the heir s contention ; the negroes to whom 
Mrs. Coalter, as was proved, had long promised freedom re 
mained in slavery until liberated by the war. Chief Justice 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 39 

Moncure vehemently pronounced the decision contrary both to 
law and equity. His minority opinion is now supported by every 
jurist in Virginia. The case was decided not long before the 
Secession, when the Southern people were infuriated, and to 
this feeling the injustice is generally ascribed. The outrageous 
wrong was reported in the Northern papers, and it is the more 
important that I should record here this protest of the Chief 
Justice. 

The only church in Falmouth was (and is) a " Union " house. 
Catholics and Unitarians were unknown in our region, and I 
remember no Episcopalian service in Falmouth ; but between 
Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians, the village had two 
and sometimes three sermons every Sunday. Now and then 
some peripatetic propagandist appeared. I remember the im 
pression made on me by a female preacher, the only one I ever 
heard in Virginia. A good-looking man sat beside her in the 
pulpit, but uttered no word ; the lady middle-aged, refined, 
comely arose without hymn or prayer, laid aside her grey 
poke-bonnet, and gave her sermon, of which I remember the 
sweet voice and engaging simplicity. I also remember that a 
hypercritical uncle, Dr. J. H. Daniel, praised the sermon. 

The walls in the vestibule of Falmouth church were thickly 
covered with caricatures of various preachers and leading citizens 
pencilled by irreverent youths while waiting to escort the ladies 
home. Probably the contrarious dogmas set forth from a 
" Union " pulpit may have had a tendency to keep clever youths 
from taking any of them seriously. Among our elders there 
was a keen interest in the controversies which I think must have 
usually characterised the sermons, for I do not recall one that 
contained anything for a child. The discussions in our house 
about " Calvinism " piqued my curiosity. My parents were 
once much amused by a narrative given them by learned John 
Minor, on one of his calls, of which I managed to get in after- 
years an exact version. A Presbyterian preacher visited 
him (John Minor) to remonstrate against his abstention from 
church, alleging the unhappy influence of his indifference to 
religion. 

" But how am I to acquire interest in religion ? " said I. 

" Through the influence of the Holy Ghost," said he. 



40 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

" How am I to obtain that influence ? " 

" By prayer." 

" What ! can my lips move the Holy Ghost ? d " 

:c The Holy Ghost moves you to pray." 

"It appears that I cannot get religion till I pray for it, and 
I cannot pray for it till I ve got it." 

The congregations in Falmouth included the elite, but it 
was different in the Methodist conventicle in Fredericksburg. I 
do not suppose that anyone attending the present neat Methodist 
church there remembers the room where their predecessors 
assembled. It was a low-roofed shanty built of planks by John 
Cobler. " Father Cobler " had been a carpenter and a local 
preacher to the town in 1789 ; but having married a widow 
possessing slaves it was decided that he must not preach. He 
manumitted the slaves, but did not resume preaching. I re 
member his benign look, serene face, and bald head. I recall 
but one preacher a square- jawed man with grating voice. With 
the exception of our family and uncle Eustace Conway and John 
Cobler, the attendants were mostly poor and ignorant. The 
women generally wore drab gowns and Quakerised bonnets. 
There was no choir, and no organ ; the hymns, led by a good 
man with a cracked voice and a tuning-fork, were crooned 
in unison. 

It was pleasant to drive over in our big round coach and 
back. But I saw my cousins and playmates on their way to 
the fine churches, and in my tenth year going to the meeting 
house began to be a half-conscious martyrdom. I have a vague 
remembrance of humiliation by some boys jesting references to 
Methodists. Several times I had been taken by relatives to the 
Episcopal church, and it was a family joke that I declared 
myself an " organ Christian." I was painfully precocious, and 
old enough to be troubled by the contrast between our Methodist 
and our social environment. I was not happy in this double 
life. I envied my playmates their sparkling worldliness and 
their indifference about their souls. In fair weather I walked 
over to " meeting " and passed the doors of the two handsome 
churches St. George s and the Presbyterian to the poor 
quarter called Liberty Town, to kneel amid ugliness and dream 
of beauty. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 41 

However, towards the close of 1841, the Methodists com 
pleted their new church, and " Cobler s " was turned over to 
the negroes. But still there was no organ. Happily there was 
no Christmas service in the Methodist church, and on that day 
I went to St. George s. The ancient church, which had stood 
for a hundred years, and which the Washingtons and other 
historic families had attended, possessed an antique dignity not 
discoverable in the present edifice. 

I remember vividly my first Christmas in St. George s (per 
haps my eleventh year). How beautiful it all was ! I sat in 
the cushioned pew with beloved relatives, near the rector s 
wife (granddaughter of Betty Lewis, Washington s sister), 
and surrounded by elegant people. The church was festooned 
with evergreen, which seemed to find voice in the " Gloria " 
with its soft and tender duet, " Thou that takest away the sins 
of the world." My heart was at peace, and I was prepared to 
listen to the gospel of peace as it came from the lips of the child 
like old rector. Dr. McGuire, with his noble countenance, with 
charming simplicity without heat or gesture read a poetic 
discourse, picturing a world at peace, when a new star was kindled 
in the sky. Then from the choir broke forth the Christmas 
hymn, " While shepherds watched their flocks by night." That 
carol came to me as if from the very angels on the first Christmas 
day. Just above the red screen was visible the lovely face of 
the chief singer whose tender voice carried the song into the 
depths of my heart. 

Often had I read the story in the New Testament ; I could 
repeat every word of it from memory ; but then and there the 
glad tidings first reached me. I had never before seen the young 
singer who led the choir. I afterwards learned that her name 
was Ella Rothrock, and am told that she married and is living 
(1903) in Philadelphia. She is not likely ever to know that her 
voice first raised for a boy she never saw the star of a love for 
" all mankind." 

Shepherds, angels, star, long ago turned to a fairy tale ; the 
happy tears unsealed by glad tidings of joy for mankind have 
changed to tears of grief at tidings of war and woe for mankind ; 
yet when past seventy I listen to the melodies that then 
moved me, above them all comes the voice of the singer of 



42 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

St. George s church repeating with new meaning the burden of 

the carol : 

" Fear not," the angel cried (for dread 

Had seized their troubled mind), 
" Glad tidings of great joy I bring 
To you and all mankind." 

To this song my heart responded in boyhood, my reason 
responds to-day. Religion, whose end and aim is not human 
happiness on earth, is a cruel superstition. 

After this memorable Christmas experience I observed that 
the Methodist " meeting " ended sooner than at St. George s, 
and that by enterprise I could reach the gallery there and hear 
the last hymn. My parents were too wise to object to my device. 
I was indeed allowed now and then to attend the whole service, 
and was trained by that choir above all, by Ella Rothrock s 
singing to a passionate love of sacred music. 

To our great delight my sister Mildred developed musical 
taste and a sweet voice. There was a good music teacher in 
Fredericksburg, and my father bought a fine piano. So fast as 
sister learned her notes I also learned enough to play hymn tunes. 
I got the St. George tune-book and found the tunes that charmed 
me first of all the " Gloria in Excelsis," and " Nativity," then 
old "Hotham," " Olympia," "Bethlehem," " Mornington," 
"Dundee" one that had delighted me being actually named 
" Conway." I learned to play them all. I set my mother, 
sister, aunts, to singing them, joining in myself with a fervent 
second. 



CHAPTER V. 

Dickinson College The Faculty in 1847 Professor McClintock and the 
Slave-hunters Student Life My " Conversion " Northern and 
Southern Methodism. 

I WAS sent to college too soon. My elder brother had gone to 
Dickinson College at Carlisle, and so desired to have me with 
him that I was taken from the academy. I had barely turned 
fifteen when I became a Sophomore, and four months later was 
advanced to the Junior class. I was the youngest in these classes. 

The college Faculty was not surpassed in ability by any in 
America. One chair indeed was inadequately filled that of 
mathematics. Its professor (Sudler) was learned, but had not 
the art of teaching. Although it was a Methodist college, best 
teachers had been secured without regard to doctrinal views, 
two of them, I believe, not being members of any church. One 
of these was William Allen, professor of chemistry, afterwards 
president of Girard College.* 

Spencer F. Baird, afterwards chief of the Smithsonian Insti 
tution, Washington, was never a Methodist, and his wife was a 
Unitarian. He was a professor of zoology. 

The classical department was represented by Dr. John 
M Clintock and Dr. George R. Crooks, afterwards of Drew 
Seminary, who were Broad-church Methodists and original 
thinkers. 

The professor of mental and moral philosophy, and of English 
composition and rhetoric, was Caldwell, who might have been a 
great man had he not died early. 

At the head of these brilliant men was Robert Emory, who 

* While president of Girard College Allen married a Unitarian lady 
of Boston. This was after I had become a Unitarian minister, and before 
the marriage I was consulted by the lady s pastor concerning my old pro 
fessor s character ! Happily I was able to give the man of whom I once 
stood in awe a good recommendation, and especially felt sure that he had 
not enough orthodoxy to trouble a Unitarian wife. 



44 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

to every student was an ideal college president. In personal 
presence, in his manners, at once gracious and dignified, in his 
simplicity, and the sweetness of his voice, he had every quality 
that could excite young enthusiasm. Robert Emory s biography 
of his father, Bishop Emory, is a scholarly work, but it can convey 
no idea of the engaging personality of our president. When he 
called on my brother and myself, I cannot remember what he 
said, but after he left we were ready to die for him. 

Professor Caldwell used to impress on us the importance of 
weighed words, exact statement, and tones sympathetic with the 
sense. His criticism of our compositions, or of our accentuation 
in reading, was uttered with such sweetness that the effect was 
always encouragement. We last met Professor Caldwell on 
February 28th, 1848. He told us there would be "no more 
Monday morning recitations, as he was going away." Soon after 
we heard of his death. So ended the work to which many 
congregations have been indebted that never heard his name. 

It was fortunate for us that there was in the Faculty a man 
of such versatility as Allen, who in addition to his own chair 
(chemistry and physics) undertook the principal part of the 
subjects Caldwell had to give up. Memorable were Allen s 
instructions in rhetoric and logic. The text-book was Whately s, 
but Allen was an abler man than Whately, and often took us on 
excursions away from the books. His fundamental principle 
was that the object of all eloquence is to carry one s point. The 
finest writing or speaking that doesn t help to carry one s point 
is no eloquence at all, but the reverse of it, distracting attention 
from the one purpose. I remember also an admirable talk he 
gave us on imaginative literature, especially fiction. He knew 
the kind of fiction that told the truth ; " and, gentlemen, what 
ever people may say against novels, such a work is always worth 
reading." 

We called Professor Allen vulgarly " Bully Allen," classically 
" Corpus," on account of his rotund dimensions, and his large 
ruddy countenance, suggestive of the typical John Bull. His 
faults as a professor were that he occasionally experimented 
on students, and did not always keep his temper. In a recitation 
on rhetoric he once asked me a question about " debating socie 
ties " ; though it was apparently from the Whately open before 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 45 

him, I had found there nothing on the subject, and shook my 
head. He then propounded the question to another of the class, 
who answered fluently. Allen then drily said, " The subject is 
not alluded to in the edition used by the class," and the poor 
student s erroneous reply revealed that he had not studied the 
lesson assigned. Allen tried a galvanic trick on one of our class 
(Auchmuty), inviting him to take hold of the handles of a battery. 
The shock caused Auchmuty to yell and jerk, the battery being 
smashed, causing fun to the class and visible anger in the pro 
fessor. I wrote a description of this scene in magniloquent 
Homeric measure, which amused some fellow-students, and I 
suspect was heard of by Allen, who seemed cross with me for a 
week. 

Baird, the youngest of the Faculty, was the beloved professor 
and the ideal student. He was beautiful and also manly ; all 
that was finest in the forms he explained to us seemed to be 
represented in the man. He possessed the art of getting know 
ledge into the dullest pupil. So fine was his spirit that his 
explanations of all the organs and functions of the various 
species were an instruction also in refinement of mind. Nothing 
unclean could approach him. One main charm of spring s 
approach was that then would begin our weekly rambles in field, 
meadow, wood, where Baird introduced us to his intimates. 
About some of these especially snakes most of us had indis 
criminate superstitions. Occasionally he would capture some 
pretty and harmless snakes, and show us with pencillings their 
difference from the poisonous ones. He even persuaded the 
bolder among us to handle them. He kept a small barrel of 
these pretty reptiles in his house, and his little daughter used to 
play with them, till once some lady entering the room gave a 
scream. After that, so ran the story, the child had the usual 
horror of snakes. 

After Professor Baird went to reside in Washington I had 
opportunities of seeing him and his family often. Mrs. Baird 
was a lady of fine culture and much wit. Baird was very lovable 
in his home, and to the end of life he remained a man in whom 
I never discovered a fault of mind or heart. He awakened in me 
a love of science, to which I had previously given little thought. 

Dr. M Clintock made Greek studies interesting, and Professor 



46 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Crooks had much skill in teaching Latin. We studied in Manuals 
compiled by them jointly, and it used to be said that to enter 
the kingdom of heaven one must study his Bible carefully and 
his " M Clintock and Crooks " prayerfully. 

Among the assistant teachers was Otis Henry Tiffany, after 
wards widely known as an attractive pulpit speaker in Baltimore 
and New York. Another, Devinney, had a reserved manner, and 
the students thought him " icy " ; but his young wife died, 
and Devinney sank into melancholy and did not long survive 
her. It was rumoured that he took his own life. 

Professor M Clintock was a much occupied man. His scholar 
ship and literary accomplishments brought his pen into much 
demand for the Methodist Quarterly, of which he became editor 
later, and other publications. He kept abreast of theological 
and philosophical inquiries in Europe and America. We were all 
proud of his reputation and careful not to encroach on his time. 
He was the last man one might expect to see mixed up in any 
disturbance, and there was wild excitement when on a bright 
June afternoon (1847) rumours spread of a fatal riot led by this 
same professor ! 

One Kennedy of Maryland had discovered his three fugitive 
slaves in Carlisle, and in an attempt to rescue them when led 
out of the court-room he was mortally wounded. My friend 
Emory M Clintock, F.R.S., son of the professor, possesses the 
documents in this once famous case. On June 2nd, Professor 
M Clintock, casually passing the court-house, was told of the 
trial of the fugitives, and entered. Finding by speaking to the 
judge that he (the judge) was not acquainted with a law just 
passed, M Clintock went home and brought a copy of it. On his 
way out of the court-room he saw a white man raise his stick over 
the head of a negro, to whom he said, " If you are struck, apply 
to me, and I will see justice done you." When M Clintock re 
turned with the new law, the case was already decided, and the 
fugitives were being led out to a carriage. Then occurred the 
riot. M Clintock kept entirely out of it, and started homewards, 
stopping a moment to ask the doctor if Kennedy was badly hurt, 
and to express regret, and another moment to protect a woman. 
" Near the court-house corner," he states, " I saw two men holding 
and apparently abusing an old negro woman. I asked her if 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 47 

they had authority. The woman jumped towards me and threw 
her left arm round me. I released myself, and then told the 
officer that if he arrested the woman wrongfully, he did it on his 
own responsibility, and I should see justice done to her. The 
woman said that she had done nothing, but only attempted to 
get her old man out of the melee, for fear he should be hurt. The 
officer said he saw her strike. I then asked, Did you see her 
strike ? He said hesitatingly, At least I saw her raise her 
hand to her head, and then I think he let her go. In a short 
time after I returned home." 

There was probably not an abolitionist amongst the students, 
and most of us perhaps were from slave States. My brother and 
I, like others, packed our trunks to leave college. A meeting 
of all the students was held in the evening in the college chapel 
at which President Emory spoke a few reassuring words ; but 
we Southerners, wildly excited, appointed a meeting for next 
morning. At this meeting (June 3) we were all stormy until the 
door opened and the face of M Clintock was seen, serene as if 
about to take his usual seat in his recitation-room. There was a 
sudden hush. Without excitement or gesture, without any 
accent of apology or of appeal, he related the simple facts, then 
descended from the pulpit and moved quickly along the aisle 
and out of the door. 

When M Clintock had disappeared there were consultations 
between those sitting side by side, and two or three Seniors 
drew up resolutions of entire confidence in the professor, which 
were signed by everyone present (ninety), and sent to leading 
papers for publication. 

Being then little over fifteen, I could not appreciate all the 
reasons why thenceforth M Clintock was to me the most inter 
esting figure in Carlisle. The calm, moral force of that address 
in the chapel, the perfect repose of the man resting on simple 
truth, I appreciated ; to this day whenever I think of him there 
arises that scene in the chapel. It was to be some years yet 
before I could recognise the picturesqueness of the scene, and 
see shining above his head the testimony in court of his enemy, 
Edward Hutt ; " M Clintock was the only white man by the 
negroes." One white gentleman at least in the Carlisle of 1847 
was capable of concern about the negroes ! It would not have 



48 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

been easy at that date to find a professor in any American college 
willing to shield negro slaves. 

It was fortunate that the celebrated trial of Dr. M Clintock 
took place during vacation. When we returned after summer it 
was to find our professor triumphant over a conspiracy of poli 
ticians all pro-slavery to get him into prison or drive him out 
of town. Witness after witness, perjurer after perjurer, came 
forward to testify that M Clintock was with those who struck 
down Kennedy, had said to the fallen man that he was served 
right, etc. Those acquainted with M Clintock knew this testi 
mony to be false, but how could it be disproved ? A well-known 
citizen, Jacob Rheem, testified that he was told by a man that 
he had overheard two men say they were resolved to drive M Clin 
tock out of Carlisle. The overheard conversation indicated a 
conspiracy, but Rheem could not remember the name or locality 
of his informant. M Clintock s lawyer, Hon. William Meredith, 
tried in vain to get some clue, but when all seemed hopeless, 
Rheem sprang forward and pointed to a man just entering the 
court-room, and cried, " There s the man ! " The stranger, 
called to the stand, fully corroborated Rheem. This new witness 
lived miles out of Carlisle, and his entrance at that moment, 
without knowing that his testimony was wanted, extended that 
testimony to Providence also. 

The countryman s exposure of the conspiracy against M Clin 
tock greatly impressed the students and the community, but 
was not needed to clear him. Several lawyers not anti-slavery 
testified that at the time when he was alleged to be in the riot 
he was some distance off talking with themselves. The trial 
only bequeathed a heavy case against slavery. It was the doom 
of that institution that every step it took outside its habitat left 
a track of blood. One slaveholder seizing negroes seeking liberty 
outweighed the benevolence of ten thousand kind masters whose 
servants clung fondly to them. 

We had a college " infidel "a Junior named Willard. I do 
not remember any spirit of propagandism about him, but he 
was regarded as a curiosity, and students sometimes grouped 
themselves around him and plied him with questions. I was 
several times a silent listener, but cannot recall any of the ques 
tions or answers. I remember the grave look and calm voice 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 49 

of Willard, and also a certain wondering respect manifested by 
the questioners and listeners. I was as yet without any inner 
ear to appreciate such discussions. But I find in a little skit of 
mine (" Dura Studentis," autumn of 1847) rea d in the Bouquet 
(a college periodical read in the chapel but not printed) sen 
tences which probably referred to him : " The Mahometan 
system of forcing into the mortal corpuses of bored students the 
principles of natural and revealed religion virtue and all is 
got in vogue. Though he (the Junior) be an infidel here he is 
forced to give utterance to the clearest and most conclusive 
arguments in favour of Christianity, and though unwilling is 
forced to become either a convert or a hypocrite." 

When those words were written I was a new Junior and not 
consciously sceptical. I can account for the sentences only by 
supposing that some incident had occurred in connection with 
Willard s recitations in Paley s " Evidences " and Butler s 
" Analogy." I would naturally have been attracted by his 
independence. A few months later I was myself a " convert." 

The aim of our professors was not to make us preachers, but 
to make us leaders of men, whatever our avocation. We were 
trained to write and speak with care, and to avoid anything 
like the heat and rant which so easily beset the preacher. 

The sermon that made the deepest impression on me at 
college was one by Professor Crooks on Charity ; his text was 
the whole of i Cor. xiii., after reading which he exclaimed, 
" What a coronet of brilliants around the brow of Charity." 
He then proceeded to explain that the word translated charity 
is ayaTrrj, love, and proceeded to give Love a beautiful coronet 
of his own. Whether then, or before, or afterward, a great love 
for Crooks sprang in my breast. I presently had him for my 
" patron," and I never knew a better man. Our friendship 
continued through life, and his death bereaved me of one from 
whose affection no doctrinal differences could ever alienate me. 

There were too many sprees among the students, but I re 
member none supposed to be habitual tipplers. There were 
advantages on the side of sobriety and gentlemanly conduct 
notably the prospect of reception at the soirees of Miss Payne s 
Seminary for young ladies they were, of course, all beautiful 
and perhaps even of sharing their occasional rambles. And 



50 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

indeed the society of Carlisle generally was very attractive and 
accessible to gentlemanly students. 

The few sports we had were such as would be regarded as 
puerile in these days of college athletics. We even played hop 
scotch ! The prizes of a college career in those days were not 
only scholastic, but also intellectual, and many types of indi 
vidual mind and character were developed. These were chiefly 
displayed at the Saturday declamation, when the chapel was 
crowded with ladies. 

To me it was indeed a revelation to find so many great men 
and refined ladies belonging to a sect which in Fredericksburg was 
in dismal contrast with the Episcopalian and Presbyterian 
churches. To hear such learned and polite people talking about 
" conversion " led me to think seriously about it. I knew that 
my parents were anxious that I should be " converted," and 
that nothing could cause greater joy in our household than 
the tidings that I had " experienced religion." So I went to the 
" mourner s bench," under no fear or excitement, having deter 
mined on the step in my own room. 

After my graduation (1849), I wrote some notes about Carlisle, 
among them the following : 

About the first of the year (1848) they were holding prayer - 
meetings down at Mr. Nadal s church, and after a few nights had 
one mourner. As soon as I heard that there was some prospect of 
a revival, I got my lessons well early in the afternoon and went down 
there with the full determination to go up to the altar to be prayed 
for. As soon as the invitation was given I went forward. My going 
up shocked a great many people, and soon that night there were 
many other students, among them my brother Peyton. I myself 
had very little feeling or conviction of anything. But I was resolved 
never to stop from that moment until I enjoyed religion in my heart, 
if there was such enjojnnent to be had. My feelings were roused 
full soon enough, and I had little cause to complain of apathy. In 
my own room in the afternoon of the ninth day of January I first 
felt peaceful, and professed religion two Sundays after by joining 
the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

The immediate fruits were that I took a class in the Sunday 
school, sang in the choir, and became active in the college tem 
perance society. Then my health broke down, and my sixteenth 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 51 

birthday found me in bed with chill and fever. My father came 
on and took me home. On our way he was visited in Baltimore 
by Rev. Dr. Bond, famous as the leading writer in the Christian 
Advocate and Journal, the great organ of Methodism. Their 
talk was on church politics, which were then assuming a very 
serious character. Slavery had already divided the Methodist 
Church. The great Baltimore Conference extended through 
northern Virginia, and was making herculean efforts to maintain 
its hold there in the face of the rising pro-slavery agitation. 
Everything, as Bond well knew, depended on my father, and 
by that long conversation I learned the whole situation, and 
by what efforts he was holding the churches in our region loyal 
after the secession of the " Methodist Church South." 



CHAPTER VI. 

Politics in Virginia Rev. Norval Wilson John Moncure Daniel, Editor 
of the Examiner My First Appearance in Print. 

ALTHOUGH after reaching home I recovered from illness, it was 
decided that I should not return to college until after summer 
vacation. Thus I had early in my seventeenth year five months 
in which to study things not taught in academy or college. Good 
opportunities came. My father s partner in the cotton-factory, 
Warren Slaughter, a very intelligent gentleman, invited me to 
go with him in his buggy on a tour through several counties 
Fauquier, Culpeper, Loudoun. We visited villages and home 
steads in all of which Mr. Slaughter had relatives or friends, and 
I made many pleasant acquaintances. 

Another tour was with my uncle Eustace Conway (after 
wards judge) in his buggy, to attend courts in Stafford, Prince 
William (Brentsville), and Fairfax. The presidential contest 
between Lewis Cass (Democrat) and General Zachary Taylor 
(Whig) was in full blast, and at Brentsville I heard speeches from 
several political orators of Virginia. After its morning session 
the court adjourned till next day ; at two a bell was rung, and 
a crowd assembled in the grove, where arrangements had been 
made to give a hearing to Congressman Pendleton ; but the 
Democrats would not let their opponents have it all their own 
way, and had secured the attendance of Hon. John S. Barbour, 
Sr., the most famous orator in Virginia. The debate was opened 
by two able Warrenton lawyers Payne (Democrat), and Chilton 
(Whig). Chilton was the Virginia nobleman who volunteered 
to act eleven years later as counsel for John Brown after the raid 
at Harper s Ferry. 

My father had been a delegate in the national convention 
that nominated Lewis Cass ; my uncle Eustace was an ardent 
Democrat ; so was I, of course ; but a note in my diary shows 
that bias did not quite blind me : " Mr. Pendleton is certainly 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 53 

one of the finest political speakers I have ever heard ; he pos 
sesses great fluency, much ingenuity, and ready wit. His speech 
was delivered beautifully declamation unexceptionable but his 
arguments specious." Of course ! " He was followed by Mr. 
J. S. Barbour in decidedly the ablest speech I ever heard. Bar- 
bour is a perfect orator. He has vast stores of information, and 
cannot be beaten at argument. His reply was the most scathing 
thing I ever heard. I regret, though, that he was so personally 
severe on Mr. Pendleton." 

Next day uncle Eustace took me to call on Barbour at his 
inn. We found him in a dressing-gown, his gouty foot swathed 
on a chair, his talk well, the shining sword of yesterday had 
gone back to its scabbard. 

The whirligig of itinerancy brought to our pulpit in 1848 a 
minister very different from any previous preacher Norval 
Wilson. He was a well-bred man of fifty years. Although 
intellectual power looked out of his light grey eyes, it was from 
a somewhat caricaturish body. Small-headed, thin-visaged, 
beardless, with beak-like nose and receding chin, tall, lank, his 
movements awkward yet withal refined, Norval Wilson was a 
figure to excite curiosity. But never did preacher speak to my 
inmost soul like this man. He was almost inaudible when be 
ginning his sermon, and his voice never rose to a high pitch ; but 
as he proceeded his eyes kindled with a strange fire, his tremulous 
tones came as if from seolian chords in his breast, and my heart 
lay like a charmed bird in his hand. There was no rhetorical 
trick, no sensational phrase, none of the stock stories of the 
pulpit, but convictions personally and profoundly thought out 
and uttered with few gestures and self-forgetting simplicity. His 
mission was to the individual heart ; his word came from the 
depth of his heart, and deep answered unto deep. Our eyes at 
times filled with happy tears. When the enchantment ceased I 
longed to clasp his knees. 

But during my five months of vacation in Virginia (1848) I 
came under another influence not favourable to my religious 
emotions that of my cousin John Moncure Daniel. His father 
of the same name, my mother s eldest brother, a physician in 
Stafford, was a classical scholar ; his mother (nee Mitchell), whose 
marvellous beauty I remember, had some Spanish blood. Dr. 



54 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Daniel had recognised the genius of his eldest son and personally 
attended to his education. But both parents died prematurely, 
and their children found homes with their relatives. John had 
already found welcome in the Richmond home of Justice Daniel, 
his father s uncle, with whom he studied law. But he had such 
a capacity for study that without in the least neglecting legal 
studies he mastered uncle Peter s excellent library, which in 
cluded the best old English literature, also many French classics. 
In this cultured home John gained his rare equipment for a 
literary career ; had he been born in Old or New England, he 
would no doubt have become eminent as a man of letters. He 
had a fine imagination, a critical appreciation of music, and a 
style of writing equal to that of the best French writers simple, 
lucid, artistic. 

My cousin gave up the law because of his passion for literature, 
and was appointed librarian in one of the Richmond libraries. 
He wrote articles on literary and political affairs, and was invited 
to assist in editing the Richmond Examiner (Democratic). It 
was not long before this journal was known as " John M. Daniel s 
paper," and he became its owner and sole editor. It was the 
most famous journal ever published in the Southern States. It 
represented a new and formidable personality in politics. Slavery 
was harmonised, by a theory that Africans were not strictly 
human beings, with the most radical democratic equality. 
Scientific essays were cited, and Carlyle s latter-day pamphlet, 
" The Nigger Question," omitted from the American edition, 
appeared in the Examiner. The Examiner was always full of 
brilliant literature. It was the first Southern paper to review 
and applaud Emerson, Hawthorne, and other Northern writers, 
and now and then extracts were given from the anti-slavery 
writers, especially Theodore Parker. Daniel gave employment 
to Edgar A. Poe, some of whose poems first appeared in the 
Examiner. There was, however, a sinister side to the Examiner. 
It was as relentless as brilliant in its partisan attacks, and its 
frequent vivisection of politicians brought my cousin into many 
duels. I think he fought nine pistol duels, and although no hurt 
resulted to any antagonist he had no skill with any weapon 
it is my belief that he lost his prospect of domestic happiness 
by the reputation thus acquired. He was attached to a very 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 55 

lovely lady, Miss Eliza Barbour, daughter of the orator already 
described. I knew her well, and have always believed that his 
suit might have succeeded had not her brother (afterwards 
senator) been frightened by the personalities and duels. He 
never married. 

In the summer of 1848 the Richmond Examiner was filling our 
whole State with talk. Its press could hardly supply, the demand. 
At every table, at every street corner, the subject was Daniel s 
last article. His wit, his brilliancy, admitted by friend and foe, 
fascinated me I was seven years his junior not without 
causing uneasiness to my father, who recognised in his brilliant 
nephew a seductive cynicism. 

I had for some time been fond of writing, but had never 
ventured to offer anything to a journal. The first piece of 
mine ever printed was an obituary with some verses on the death 
of Eustace, aged four years, son of my uncle Eustace Conway ; 
it appeared in the Fredericksburg paper (the Democratic Recorder) 
April 21, 1848. 

But presently I was tempted to try something in the John 
Daniel vein. Uncle Richard Moncure was induced to accept 
nomination for the Legislature, in order that he might act on a 
committee to revise the Virginia code. He had no desire for 
legislative life, and to go even for a session must involve sacrifices 
in his profession ; a good deal of indignation was therefore 
excited by the exceptional efforts of the Whigs to defeat him. 
His opponent was Charles Francis Suttle, six years later famous 
as the owner of the fugitive slave, Anthony Burns. 

The chief precinct in Stafford County was Falmouth, and 
uncle Richard requested me to act as clerk at the election, which 
occurred April 27, 1848. The two dollars paid me for it was the 
first money I ever earned. Uncle Richard was elected, but the 
Whigs were sore, and I should have done better to let the matter 
rest. But the comedy of the election scene moved me to write 
a squib for the Fredericksburg paper, in which Mr. Suttle s 
corpulence was alluded to, his name punned on, and one of his 
supporters, not named, made fun of. This supporter was a 
worthy neighbour, a bachelor I believe, whose vote was chal 
lenged on the ground that he was not a householder. His claim 
to be a householder rested mainly on the circumstance that he 



56 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

kept a cat. The discussion of this cat, the demand for authori 
ties, all went on in the most serious and even stormy way, for 
the contest was critical, and this gravity made the scene so 
comic that an impish desire to describe it got hold of me. My 
little piece, " Richard is Himself Again," signed " Stafford, 
appeared in the Fredericksburg paper, and the first echo I heard 
was that young Falmouth Whigs were going about, horsewhip 
in hand, to discover " Stafford." Falmouth was seething about 
the skit, all the more because it was copied in the Richmond 
Examiner, and pronounced " lively." That did not compensate 
me for my father s ridicule of it, richly merited, and his discovery 
by my burning face that I was the culprit. This, my second 
venture in print, brought me chill-and-fever for my May Day. 

The Fredericksburg paper (the Democratic Recorder) was 
edited by our relative, Samuel Greenhow Daniel, who had given 
up his profession (law), but I did not let him know the author 
ship of the vSkit just referred to, nor of others which I began to 
send in. My only confidant was my sister (in her twelfth year), 
to whom every piece was read. She invariably approved, and 
I cautiously dropped my manuscript in the paper s door-box. I 
wrote versifications signed " Cleofas II.," and tales signed 
" Alphonso III." One of these, " Scholarship," represents a 
Senior invited by a Freshman, a beau, to visit some pretty young 
ladies. The Freshman, in conversation with the ladies, airs 
some bad Latin, the Senior corrects him, but only to be himself 
put to confusion and apologised for before the ladies by the 
impudent Freshman. I mention this because twenty years later 
I witnessed at Stockholm, Sweden, a play with the same motif. 
Another of my stories was " Outaliski s Revenge," and opens 
with a tribute to the picturesque ruins of Potomac church. Of 
this church not one stone is now left upon another, but I can 
remember two walls with fine arches and windows. In my tale 
the merciless master-builder (" Hughes ") has under him in 
building the church " Outaliski " and his son, last of the aborig 
ines in Stafford, compelled by poverty to labour under some 
contract. Outaliski s son, forced while ill to do work heavier 
than he could, is struck by Hughes, falls, and dies. Outaliski 
continues his work, but when he and Hughes are together on the 
finished tower, the red man hurls the white tyrant to the earth, 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 5; 

then slays himself on his son s grave. The first solemnity in 
Potomac church was the funeral of Hughes, the second that of 
Outaliski. This was reprinted in the New York Herald as a 
veritable old legend, but it had no foundation at all. 

But now the presidential campaign as we rightly call it, for 
it is a war-born quadrennial revolution reached an acute stage. 
I became much enlisted in the contest, and wrote a number of 
pseudonymous articles in a satirical vein. Such partisanship 
was not favourable to the piety of a young convert, but this 
was not the worst of it ; it was the main part of our democratic 
case against the Whig nominee (Zachary Taylor) that he refused 
to pronounce himself adverse to the rising schemes in the North 
for restrictive legislation against slavery. For the sake of one 
party victory, which we did not obtain, we must needs fire the 
Southern heart, irritate it against the North, and sow tares like 
the devil. 



CHAPTER VII. 

College Life President Peck A Practical Joke Reading A Winter 
Adventure Editing the Collegian First Love Orations at Gradua 
tion My Secretaryship of a Southern Rights Society My Public 
Lecture in Fredericksburg Law Student and Deputy Clerk in 
Fauquier Writing for the Press Crisis wrought by Emerson 
Visiting Washington Listening to the Great Senators My first 
Pamphlet, " Free Schools in Virginia " A Camp-meeting in 
Loudoun A Banquet at Warrenton to our Senators. 

IN September, 1848, I returned to Carlisle alone, my brother s 
health having failed. I was youngest of the Seniors. Our 
speeches at Saturday declamation were original compositions. 
I straightway made a partisan speech, in the humorous vein, 
which was answered by Whig students. There was no ill-temper 
among us, but to politics were due many recitation-room failures. 
We were a miniature of the whole country ; culture and presi 
dential elections are not harmonious. For myself I had re 
turned to college somewhat demoralised by the political cam 
paign, and especially by an engendered anti-Northern feeling. 
John Daniel had asked me to write for the Richmond Examiner, 
and I went about Carlisle searching out something to ridicule 
or assail. The low condition of the free negroes made one letter, 
and tipsiness of students at Christmas another. I wrote only 
two of these crudities, I am glad to say, and there was truth in 
both, albeit exaggerated in my inflated Southernism. 

Unfortunately the college also was demoralised that autumn. 
The institution, bereaved of President Emory, had gone on 
smoothly enough while the presidential functions were entrusted 
to our beloved M Clintock, but on an evil day Rev. Dr. Jesse T. 
Peck was elected. Our immature minds could not appreciate 
his good qualities, while his large paunch, fat face, baby-like 
baldness, and pompous air impressed the whole college as a 
caricature. He had been a school teacher, and called us " boys," 
and we thought him inclined to discipline us like boys. Several 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 59 

incident s^occurred, one involving my chum, Henry Smith, another 
myself, which stirred my dislike of Peck into wrath ; and I tried 
a practical joke on him, which brought me remorse, and is men 
tioned here only because it has become a college tradition. 

Several erroneous versions of this incident have appeared, 
and others besides myself have been connected with it. I am, 
however, the only culprit. A Methodist Conference was to 
gather at Staunton, Va., and President Peck was to read there 
a report on the college. Staunton was famous for its lunatic 
asylum, whose physician was Dr. Stribling. Under an assumed 
name, I wrote to Dr. Stribling that a harmless lunatic had gone 
off to Staunton, who imagined himself president of Dickinson 
College, and fancied he had a report to make to the Conference. 
Dr. Peck s appearance was described minutely, and Dr. Stribling 
was requested to detain him in comfort until his friends could 
attend. As Dr. Peck was travelling with other Methodist 
ministers, I could not suppose that the missive would have any 
result beyond raising a laugh on him ; but Dr. Peck was met 
by Dr. Stribling in his carriage, and supposed that such was the 
arrangement of the Conference for his entertainment. Of course 
the deception \vas soon discovered at the asylum. I perceived 
that Dr. Peck was convinced that I was the guilty one, and it 
must have been through him that my name became connected 
with the affair. 

This was my first and last attempt at a practical joke. More 
than forty years later, when honoured at Dickinson College with 
a literary degree, I entered our venerable Union Philosophical 
Society, and the proceedings were suspended in order that I 
might be asked to give an exact account of the Staunton-Peck 
story. It was to me like being called up at Judgment Day, 
and after telling the story I remarked that though my eschatology 
might be unorthodox with regard to eternal punishment, the 
perpetuity of that affair was enough to show that in the world 
there is a sort of endless punishment. I found somewhat to my 
dismay that the legend was the thing by which I stood best in 
college traditions. For Dr. Peck appears to have gone on 
accumulating the students ill will until at length he was re 
moved, and|later made a bishop. 

After the November election (1848) I turned to literary 



60 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

studies, reading especially the old English novelists. The new 
school of writers Goethe, Emerson, Channing, George Sand, 
Hawthorne were not in our libraries. At Dickinson College 
American literature consisted of Poe, Longfellow, Bryant, Irving, 
Paulding, Cooper, Prescott, R. H. Dana, Bancroft, Sparks, 
N. P. Willis, Mrs. Sigourney, Caroline Lee Hentz, and a few 
others, chiefly women, whose verses were widely read. 

Byron had been forbidden me in my boyhood for I was a 
precocious reader and the phase of life when I might have 
enjoyed him passed. In later life my mother was distressed to 
find that I felt no interest in Byron. I was not much attracted 
by Walter Scott s novels or poetry, though I eagerly read his 
criticisms on other writers. John Daniel was an enthusiast 
about Shakespeare, but by the slowness of rny appreciation of 
him I can recognise how much of the child was in me along with 
precocity in one or two directions. 

I cannot remember that my religion had much to do with 
either theology or the Bible. Within four months after my 
" conversion " I wrote a piece for the Fredericksburg paper 
entitled " Curiosity," and find in it such levity as this : " You 
may talk about Eve s curiosity entailing death and misery on 
the human race and such like but don t tell me ; is not desire 
for knowledge praiseworthy ? Was not Eve assured, on the 
authority of Monsieur le Devil, that if she would eat the apple 
she would be a more sensible woman than she was then what 
else ? " 

This was written when I was about sixteen, and I cannot 
discover in my notes anything leading to such a tone. I had 
never seen an unorthodox book. 

In childhood we were forbidden to go barefoot after Sep 
tember for fear of catching cold, but one year I went off to a 
lonely place and disported my bare feet in the snow. No ill- 
effects resulted, and I had taken a step toward independence. 
But at college I had a serious encounter with Nature. A class 
mate of ability, John Henry Waters, afterwards scientific pro 
fessor in Missouri, invited me to go home witn him (Hartford 
County, Maryland) for the Christmas holidays (1848). We had 
to make the two days journey in a half-covered buggy. Numb 
with cold, we stopped for the night at a country inn, and were 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 61 

warmed by whiskey punch. This was my first taste of anything 
alcoholic, and after that I took my first cigar without a qualm, 
moral or physical. I once published my belief that a true history 
of tobacco would be a history of constitutional freedom, and 
perhaps I might have added that in each American s first cigar 
there is a personal declaration of independence. By the blessing 
of tobacco we defied Zero, and passed a happy week in Maryland. 
But in returning we were overtaken by a fearful blizzard. The 
snow piled itself in great drifts, our wheels became clogged, and 
our horse began to give out. Half frozen as we were, it is prob 
able that we were saved serious results by the necessity of pushing 
the buggy. At length the traces broke, we both mounted the 
one horse, and leaving the buggy, struggled on about two miles 
before we saw a house. There we found shelter and help in 
afterwards recovering our buggy. " We had an extremely hard 
time of it," says my diary, " but I know it has done me good 
made me more self-reliant." 

Early in 1849 I persuaded the students to start a monthly 
periodical. The Collegian lasted until vacation. I do not know 
whether there exists any file of the five numbers except that in 
my possession. I was the editor, but had a good staff. Several 
of the assistant professors contributed to it, and Professor Allen 
gave me a metrical translation of Cleanthes Hymn to Jupiter. 
I have personal reason to congratulate myself that the articles 
were anonymous, mine being mostly trash ; for the task of 
critical selection from the contributions of others allowed little 
time for taking pains with my own. 

Also I fell in love. I was just seventeen, and this love was 
the second of my births. Catharine, sister of President Emory, 
though born on the same day as myself, was more mature in 
mind. She consented to an occasional correspondence after my 
departure, but not to a betrothal. 

At the anniversary of our Union Philosophical Society I was 
appointed to deliver the " comic " speech ; my piece, " The 
Philosophy of Language," was a tissue of bad puns, the puerility 
of which was perhaps less than the solemnity of my " oration " 
at the College Commencement. This subject was " Old Age," 
and the Carlisle Herald said " it was a badly chosen subject ; 
as the orator is a very young man, all his theory is so, and no 



62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

more. He has not an atom of experience of the pleasures and 
pains of old age." 

Had I been old enough to take that criticism to heart, I 
should not now have to look back upon so many early years in 
which I impressed congregations with error, and was praised for 
eloquence the eloquence of inexperience ! 

My graduating oration was suggested by an anecdote told 
me by my friend Charles C. Tiffany, that Channing, when sixty, 
was asked what he had found the happiest period of life, and 
replied, " Sixty ! " 

Tiffany, now an eminent archdeacon in New York, was a 
Junior when I was a senior, but to him I looked up, for in general 
literary culture he was our most accomplished student. 

Besides work on The Collegian, I wrote in the spring of 1849 
five articles for the Fredericksburg paper, on " Old Writers of 
Fiction," those selected being Fielding, Smollett, Sterne, Ann 
Radcliffe, Horace Walpole. There is nothing original in these 
articles. I refer and defer a good deal to Scott, Ferrier, and 
Hazlitt. I do not know how I realised what I said incidentally 
in the last article (1849) f Maria Edge worth : " She has done 
more in inculcating principles of morality, humanity aye, of 
religion (though no direct mention of this latter is made in any 
of her works) than any authoress in the nineteenth century." 

The breaking up of college life was sorrowful. On my last 
night there I did not go to bed at all, but hovered around the 
home of my beloved. 

My selection of " Old Age " as the theme of my graduating 
oration strikes me now as pathetic. I graduated when about 
three months past my seventeenth birthday, or just at the time 
when I should have entered the college. I felt the burden of 
youth. 

My only enthusiasm was for literature, but what channel 
was there in Virginia for that ? None. 

Although my father was in good pecuniary circumstances, 
he had a right to expect that I would select some profession, 
and I troubled h m by continuing to write small pieces for the 
Fredericksburg paper and the Richmond Examiner, and one or 
two tales published in the Southern Literary Messenger. John 
Daniel paid for what I wrote in the Examiner, but there was no 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 63 

prospect of finding in the South any support from unpolitical 
and un theological literature. 

It was a time when a " Young Virginia " was rising up to 
promulgate the philosophical, sociological, and ethical excel 
lence of slavery. In this direction able pamphlets were written 
by Beverly Wellford of Fredericksburg (now an eminent judge 
in Richmond) and George Fitzhugh of Port Royal, while a religious 
propaganda was carried on by the Rev. Mr. Stringfellow, of the 
Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Dr. William Smith, president of 
Randolph-Macon College (Methodist). 

My father s moderation and his theoretically anti-slavery 
principles were rapidly becoming old-fashioned. He was troubled 
by the efforts of the younger generation to capture me, as I 
had by this time acquired some local reputation as a writer. 
My uncle, Judge Eustace Con way, was the personal friend of the 
South Carolina senator, John C. Calhoun, then the high priest 
of " Southern Rights," a statesman whose intellectual face, 
which I remember, and whose character comported little with 
the belligerent secessionism for which his constitutional principles 
were unconsciously preparing the way. John Daniel, extreme 
as he was, opposed Calhoun s demand for a constitutional amend 
ment, guaranteeing to the Slave States an " equilibrium " with 
the Free States, a demand which, he said, " gives colour to the 
charge of desiring disunion." Nine years later this kind of 
radicalism receded into reactionism under the rage excited by 
John Brown s raid at Harper s Ferry. 

My father and his younger brother Eustace had taken up 
opposite positions in the Methodist dispute about slavery, and 
a Southern Methodist church was built in Fredericksburg, uncle 
Eustace supplying the means. Personally the brothers were 
never estranged, and if they could have agreed on church politics 
the history of Methodism in Virginia might have been different ; 
for Fredericksburg was the chief battlefield of the " wings," and 
my father and his brother were the lay leaders. Uncle Eustace 
was a favourite speaker in the presidential campaign of 1848. 
I remember some politician saying to him, " I never carry my 
pew into politics, nor politics into the pew." " I carry both into 
both," replied my uncle. But I was not yet up to that ; I stood 
by my father in pew politics, with my uncle in party politics. 



64 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

A few months after my graduation I was invited to attend a 
meeting in the law office of Thomas B. Barton, whose son William 
(afterwards judge) was the chief mover in the matter. The 
object of the gathering was the formation of a Southern Rights 
Association. Only about a dozen were present, but they were 
persons of large influence. Some asserted the right of secession, 
though no immediate action of the kind was advocated. I was 
flattered by being appointed secretary of the meeting, but cannot 
find my notes of the proceedings. Extreme pro-Southern resolu 
tions were passed. 

My father heard of this meeting, and a few days later, 
when we were riding together to Stafford Court House, asked 
me about it. I told him all that had occurred ; he went on in 
silence for some moments, then said quietly, " Don t be the fool 
of those people ! Slavery is a doomed institution." 

How often have I remembered those words ! Yet at the 
time they only mystified me. Slavery seemed to be as perma 
nent a fact as the Rappahannock River ; neither my father nor 
any of the Methodists were proposing to abolish slavery, and I 
was inclining to the view that the opposition to it was merely 
traditional. 

In the following year (1850) Fredericksburg society began 
to take notice of me. Certain writings were recognised as mine, 
and were discussed. Meanwhile I was beginning to feel restless 
and eager to enter upon some kind of occupation. My parents 
did not understand this, and one day I disappeared from home, 
much to their consternation. I went to Richmond in order to 
see John Daniel, and find whether he could employ me on the 
Examiner. When I entered the office Edgar A. Poe was just 
leaving it. John Daniel said that if I had finally broken away 
from home and made up my mind to devote myself to journalism, 
he would give me work, but he would not seek to influence me 
in the matter. He would continue to pay me for what I might 
write. My uncle Eustace Conway was in the Legislature. He 
and his family made my brief sojourn pleasant, but he persuaded 
me to return home. 

An incident in Richmond made a deep impression on me. 
On Sunday morning I accompanied uncle Eustace s wife and her 
sister, Fanny Tomlin, to the old Episcopal church on Shockoe Hill, 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 65 

and after the benediction my aunt stopped to speak to the 
clergyman and his family, with whom she was acquainted. We 
were in the vestry, and there the clergyman invited us to enjoy 
the remainder of the bread and wine he had just been using in 
the Communion Service. I was shocked by the swiftness with 
which the bread and wine had lost their sacredness. 

Immediately after leaving home I had sent a note to my 
father saying where I had gone, and that I did not mention it 
to him beforehand because I was afraid he would prevent my 
going. I staid away only a few days, and on my return found 
him angry. Nevertheless he recognised that a crisis was reached. 
He had really been hoping that I would adopt the ministerial 
profession, but now suggested studying law. I agreed to that, 
and soon afterwards he heard that Colonel William Fowke 
Phillips, clerk of Fauquier County and a learned lawyer, was in 
want of a deputy clerk. For my services Colonel Phillips offered 
me residence in his home and supervision of my law studies. 

While these arrangements were going on privately, I was 
honoured by a number of gentlemen in Fredericksburg with a 
request to deliver a lecture in the town hall. This lecture was 
given in the evening of March i, 1850. Alas ! still under the 
burden of youth, I selected for my theme " Pantheism." The 
large hall was crowded with the finest people of our region, among 
whom, however, only the clergymen knew the meaning of Pan 
theism. Not even they saw the danger in my respectful senti 
ments towards Pantheism, and Pope gained applause for his 
couplet : 

All are but parts of one stupendous whole 
Whose body Nature is and God the soul. 

Orthodoxy was delighted with my illustration of the Trinity 
by the three primary colours blended in light. On the whole 
I appeared to get through fairly well, and received congratula 
tions, but two days later W. H. Fitzhugh, a sagacious lawyer, 
said, " You will make yourself unpopular by speaking above 
the vulgar comprehension." 

Unpopular ! I had no desire for popularity, no dreams of 
anything beyond writing what would please certain intellectual 
people in Virginia and Carlisle. 

F 



66 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

On March 3 I received from our Fredericksburg preacher, 
Norval Wilson, a certificate of church-membership. In giving 
it to me he said, " St. Paul before he preached tarried three 
years in Arabia now Warren ton may be your Arabia." 

The next day I went to Alexandria, and from there travelled 
to Warrentori on a stage coach. I find in my journal this entry : 
" Read in the coach, from the Richmond Examiner, The Great 
Stone Face ; the writer of it, Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a striking 
writer. Man of great reflection." 

On March 9, James Duncan, a handsome young Methodist 
preacher, staying at the house of Colonel Phillips, read to us 
Daniel Webster s famous seven th-of-March speech. The reader s 
voice was musical, and the impression made upon me by the 
speech is thus recorded : " Heavens, what a Titan is Webster ! 
I should like to see his dust subjected to chemical analysis after 
he s dead." While I was writing this, the best Northern men 
were in mourning for that same speech. Emerson was saying 
of his former idol, " Every drop of his blood has eyes that look 
downward." John Daniel printed in the Examiner Theodore 
Parker s scathing discourse upon Webster s speech, and pro 
nounced Webster an " elephantine coward." 

The home of Colonel Phillips was a pleasant, old-fashioned 
house in a pretty garden. The family consisted of his two 
daughters and widowed sister. The ladies were Methodists, but 
Colonel Phillips ignored all churches. No efforts were spared 
by these ladies to make my new home happy. The colonel was 
a superb old gentleman in appearance, and a radical Democrat. 
He was exact in his office, and my work there was an instruction 
in precision ; the change of a word might involve much. I 
studied law with much interest, and closely followed the pleadings 
and trials in the court-house, The lawyers were able ; Robert 
Eden Scott, James Marshall (kinsman of the famous Chief Jus 
tice), Inman Horner, Samuel Chilton, William Payne, kept up 
the high traditions of the Virginia Bar. 

The Hon. Robert E. Scott charmed me by his fine personality 
and manners, but he was the leading Whig, and " Young Vir 
ginia " being politically infallible, I listened to his public speeches 
mainly to describe their fallacies in the Examiner. 

Alas, what a poison is partisanship ! My uncle Eustace, who 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 6; 

was a lawyer first and a politician after, and my father, who was 
above all a magistrate, were able to honour such jurists as Judge 
Scott and his son Robert, but in my new zeal I resented the course 
of the latter in the Virginia Legislature (1848) on the Slavery 
question. My uncle Eustace had introduced into the Legislature 
resolutions hostile to the " Wilmot Proviso," then before Con 
gress. These resolutions affirmed that any such restriction on 
the equality of Southern institutions would justify secession of 
the Slave States from the Union. Robert Eden Scott led the 
opposition to these " Conway resolutions," as they were called, 
but the gallant statesman was defeated. Though he and uncle 
Eustace remained good friends, Scott was vehemently attacked 
by the Southern " fire-eaters," and defeated at the election that 
followed. In 1850 he was again a candidate, and on March 25 
addressed the people in the court-house at Warren ton. I have 
in my scrapbook of crudities my report of this address in the 
Richmond Examiner, interlarded with flings at the speaker, to 
whose great and brave thought I was blind. He began by a 
noble deprecation of party spirit, which he declared a more 
potent influence than that of religion or morality, and warned 
the people that any attempt to erect a Southern Confederacy 
would end in their ruin. 

Here, then, in Robert E. Scott was a real nobleman, repre 
sentative of the best traditions of Virginia, and I knew it not. 
His tall, dignified figure, his fine blonde head and face, his charming 
candour and simplicity, are visible to me across the more than 
half century elapsed since I last saw him. This admirable man went 
on suffering political defeat and humiliation for his independence 
and fidelity to his principles, and was one of the many honourable 
Virginians who carried their State against secession, after the 
election of Lincoln, but were forced to succumb by the Presi 
dent s calling on Virginia for troops to fight South Carolina. 
Robert E. Scott did not take up arms in the Civil War, but was 
killed by a company of Northern soldiers because he remon 
strated with them for exploiting his homestead. 

At Warrenton there was a small Episcopalian church with 
a good preacher (Mr. Norton), and the Methodist church there 
being hostile to our Baltimore Conference, I often attended 
Mr. Norton s, and taught a class in his Sunday school. On 



68 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Sunday afternoon it was my chief happiness to sit in the 
gallery playing on the little organ, alone except for the old 
negro sexton who blew the bellows for me, and found delight in 
the music. 

I read the law-books rapidly, and copied carefully, but there 
were sometimes two or three days in the week when there was 
nothing for me to do. Now and then I rode over to the Fauquier 
Springs to see Miss Rebecca Green (afterwards Mrs. Shackleford), 
who played finely on the piano and introduced me to Beethoven, 
Mozart, and Weber. One piece, " Musetto de Nina " wild, 
dreamy, pathetic inspired me to write a romance. I called it 
" Confessions of a Composer." 

O my poor dead self aimless, morbid, passionately longing 
for it knew not what pass to thy tardy cremation ! For I 
cannot recognise myself in this spirit s blank misgivings as it 
moves about in worlds unreal. 

An illness in April was followed by a return to Falmouth 
for a few weeks, and there I entered upon a spiritual crisis of 
whose import I was long unconscious. One bright morning I 
took up my old flint-lock gun and wandered down the left bank 
of the Rappahannock. In earlier years I had been fond of shoot 
ing, but had not touched a gun for nearly two years, and perhaps 
took it on this occasion to try and revive in myself some of the 
boyish spirit that had left me. For I was listless and unhappy. 
I had begun to feel a repugnance to the idea of being a county 
lawyer, and was interested only in literature. With my flint-lock 
I took along an old volume of BlackwoocPs Magazine. At the 
top of the first hill below Falmouth, and about halfway to the 
old mansion called " Chatham," there is near the road a pretty 
spring, from which I drank, with a folded leaf for my cup, and 
sat down to look at the scenery. The road was little used, and 
I was rather startled by some rustling in the bushes. Two 
mulatto children had come to get water in their cans a boy and 
a girl of seven or eight years and, as befitted the warm day and 
their Arcadian age, both entirely naked. Adam and Eve could 
not have been more unconscious than these pretty statuettes 
of yellow bronze. I talked with them a little, found them rather 
bright, and, when they had disappeared, meditated more deeply 
than ever before on the condition of their race in America. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 69 

I then turned to my " Blackwood." In the number for 
December, 1847, tne nrst article was entitled " Emerson " a 
name previously unknown to me. The very first extract it was 
from Emerson s essay on History fixed itself in me like an 
arrow : 

It is remarkable that involuntarily we always read as superior 
beings. Universal history, the poets, the romancers, do not in their 
stateliest pictures in the sacerdotal., the imperial palaces, in the 
triumphs of will or of genius anywhere lose our ear, anywhere make 
us feel that we intrude, that this is for better men ; but rather is it 
true, that in their grandest strokes we feel most, at home. All that 
Shakespeare says of the king, yonder slip of a boy that reads in the 
corner feels to be true of himself. 

Precisely what there was in these words to influence my life 
I cannot say. I have a vague remembrance of sitting there 
beside the spring a long time meditating on Emerson s use 
of the phrase " true of himself." What " self " was this ? Clearly 
not the same as " soul," with which I was so familiar. 

Whatever may have been the questionings, some revelation 
there was. A spiritual crisis, as I have said, though it concerned 
only myself. Through a little rift I caught a glimpse of a vault 
beyond the familiar sky, from which flowed a spirit that was 
subtly imbreeding discontent in me, bereaving me of faith in 
myself, rendering me a mere source of anxiety to those around 
me. And what was I doing out there with a gun trying to kill 
happy little creatures of earth and sky ? Was it for this I 
was born ? 

There is a legend that old Governor Spottswood, wishing to 
introduce the English skylark into Virginia, brought over a 
shipload of them and set them free in our meadows. I had 
heard it talked of in my childhood, and one day felt sure that 
I heard the notes of a marvellous bird, and saw it ascending to 
ward the sky. My story raised a smile when I told it at home, 
and I had to agree that no skylark survived from those brought 
over nearly a hundred and fifty years before. But it was no 
fancy that now in my maturer life Emerson had set free in my 
heart a winged thought that sang a new song and soared 
whither ? 



;o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I went home and laid aside my gun, never again to be touched. 
I thought again and again of those naked little mulattoes at the 
spring, whose minds were no doubt as pretty as their bodies, 
but without a stitch of knowledge. I remembered how my mother 
had been warned not to teach coloured folk to read. I recognised 
on the streets debased faces of white people, their poverty of 
mind and body. They appeared worse off than the coloured 
people. Above them all my inner skylark sang : 

Glad tidings of great joy I. bring 
To you and ail mankind. 

But who more powerless than I to bring glad tidings to 
anybody ! 

Straightway I went to Chester White s bookstore, Fredericks- 
burg. " Emerson s Arithmetic " was in stock, but Emerson s 
Essays unknown. However, the bookseller procured a copy of 
the " First Series," and I was deep in it when John Daniel passed 
a few days in Fredericksburg. 

I had remarked that since I had come upon the track of 
Emerson, cousin John had been writing about him in the Rich 
mond Examiner. What I never knew until lately was that John 
had made an effort to found a liberal church at Richmond, and 
had actually delivered a sermon to a small company in the 
long-closed Universalist church there. In our talk in Fredericks- 
burg he urged me to go into journalism. " Whatever you do," 
he said, " don t be a preacher. It is a wretched profession. Its 
dependence is on absurd dogmas. The Trinity is a theological 
invention, and hell-fire simply ridiculous." He wrote for me a 
list of books that I ought to read, and among them were Emer 
son s works. I told him that I had got hold of Emerson. I 
find notes of that conversation (spring of 1850) : 

We got to talking of Emerson. He asked me which of his writings 
I liked best. I said I had read few, but of those I had been most 
fascinated by the Essay on Love. He said he liked that better than 
any other. " It should not," he said, " be called an essay nor a 
treatise, nor anything of that sort ; there is no name for so divine 
a thing not even poem. It is more like a fine, glorious strain of 
music. The heavens are opened in it, and you see everything." He 
asked me how I was agreeing with Poe. I said I had read him, and 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. ;i 

was growing, I feared, in love with " Eureka " ; but I was surprised 
that in an article in the Southern Literary Messenger he had called 
" Eureka " the Parthenon of Reason. " So it is," he answered, 
" with the assumption of intuition he makes." We conversed on 
Poe s poetry. The Raven, " says John, " is as one of Beethoven s 
sublime overtures." I have noticed that in his comparisons John 
finds nothing that he thinks so high as comparing a thing to music. 
This shows his great soul. It reminds me of Plato calling all the 
grandeur of Nature music. 

When this talk occurred I was just beyond my eighteenth 
year, and had not really entered on any theological inquiry. 
This I suppose may account for the fact that what my cousin 
said about the Trinity and other dogmas made no serious im 
pression on me at the time. There was a cynicism in his con 
tempt for the clerical profession with which I could not sympa 
thise, while the problems that absorbed me were more fundamental 
than any creeds. Or so it seemed to me. But I was filled with 
wonder by John s conversational power and his vast information. 
I was too young to realise the loneliness in Virginia of a young 
man he was in his twenty-fifth year of such genius and scholar 
ship. I considered him, with his famous Examiner, able to say 
what he thought and make himself heard, the most enviable man 
in Virginia. What I could not see until too late was that here 
was a heart full of love, a mind akin to Emerson, bound fast to 
the role of fighting politicians with pen and pencil. John Daniel s 
cynicism was largely the result of his spiritual loneliness. 

Before returning to Warrenton I passed nearly a week in 
Washington. It was an exciting week in Congress, the so-called 
" Omnibus " bill being before the Senate a bill made up of 
compromises on all points relating to slavery. I heard 
speeches from Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, also Senators Foote, 
Soule, Berrien, Clemens, Yulee, and would have heard Cass if 
he had spoken loud enough. As it was, there was nothing to 
relieve my disappointment at finding only greatness of paunch in 
that man whom my father had nominated for the presidency, 
and for whom I had hurrahed myself hoarse. A year later I 
recognised a certain massiveness of head and strength of coun 
tenance in Senator Cass. 

It was on May 21, 1850, that I first heard Webster. It was 



72 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in answer to the Southern Senator Yulee, who arraigned Presi 
dent Taylor for sending an armed cruiser to the coast of Cuba. 
The President, he declared, had no constitutional right to perform 
any warlike act without the consent of Congress. Webster 
came down on Yulee as softly and as crushingly as a trip-hammer. 
The ship was really sent to watch the filibusters preparing on 
the coast of Florida to seize Cuba. Webster did not pronounce 
the word " filibuster " at all ; he declared that the United States 
was friendly with Spain, and so long as that country did not 
transfer Cuba to any other country, it was the duty of our govern 
ment to see that no movements hostile to Spain w r ere fitted out 
on our coasts. He spoke for about twenty minutes, sonorously, 
but without heat, and the Senate listened breathlessly. He stood 
there like some time-darkened minster-tower. He was an 
institution. I do not remember any reply. 

Two days later (May 23) I witnessed the skirmish between 
Henry Clay and Senator Soule of Louisiana. Soule was the 
finest product of the old French elements in his State ; he was 
handsome, free from mannerism, and his French accent rather 
agreeable. He spoke for more than an hour, and commanded 
the closest attention justly, for his was almost the only speech 
against the " Omnibus " that rested the case simply on argument. 
His arguments were sometimes original, and he was interrupted 
by Foote and Downs, Southerners who knew their section was 
getting the lion s share by the pretended " Compromise," but he 
was never confused. Henry Clay was visibly agitated, as he 
well might be, for his darling measure was brought into the 
presence of the new pro-slavery spirit of the Young South, to 
which the Union was not an end but a means. When Soule had 
finished Clay sprang to his feet and charged him with expressing 
disunion sentiments. Several voices cried " No," and Soule 
quietly and modestly said that it was perhaps due to his imperfect 
English that Clay had so misunderstood him. Clay had not 
misunderstood, but succeeded in what he aimed at ; namely, to 
secure a repudiation of " disunionism " from the much-applauded 
orator. He then apologised. Daniel W T ebster I remarked listen 
ing closely to Clay, and once he made a suggestion to him. Clay 
said that if Soule desired he would agree to modify a clause so as 
to declare that a territorial legislature should pass no laws 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 73 

" either to admit or exclude slavery." Webster interpolated, 
" respecting the establishment or exclusion of slavery." " Cer 
tainly," cried Clay, deferentially repeating Webster s phrase. 

As the secretary of the first Southern Rights Association 
formed in northern Virginia, I was delighted with Soule, and wrote 
a note about him to the Richmond Examiner. From my seat in 
the gallery I searched out the historic figures in the Senate, most 
of them victims on the altar of the great idol the Union. Clay, 
Cass, Webster, had offered their souls on that altar, and their 
bodies were fast following their perished hopes of presidency. 
Two of the ablest senators present \vere soon to lose their senatorial 
lives Benton and Corwin. They had perceived that it was not 
the small band of abolitionists demanding peaceful disunion, but 
militant and aggressive Slavery, that was besieging the Union. 

The seat of Calhoun w r as conspicuously vacant. I had seen 
that aged senator when on his way to South Carolina, never to 
return. He was welcomed at our Fredericksburg station with 
an address of homage by my uncle Eustace Conway, in behalf of 
the town. It no doubt consoled his last days that Benton had 
lost his election to the Senate, but there was this great man from 
Missouri still making his sparkling speeches. I thought him 
the grandest man in the body, speaking with a clearness, dignity, 
and simplicity that quite charmed me. 

Ewbank s Patent Office Report, a volume of essays by Horace 
Greeley, and Horace Mann s Report on the Schools of Massa 
chusetts, were acquisitions made in Washington that week. On 
my way to Warrenton I sat perched on the stage with these com 
panions, becoming aware of the existence of a great world where 
people were cultured, well to do, and engaged with manifold 
schemes for the improvement and happiness of mankind. Horace 
Greeley wrote in warm sympathy with socialism, and his Tribune 
made me acquainted with all the theories and enterprises of 
Robert Owen and Fanny Wright which were then filling the 
Northern air. I discussed these subjects with the young men 
of Warrenton, and with Richard Smith, a teacher and able 
editor of the town paper, " The Flag of 98," and soon felt 
that I was an object of misgivings. I was studying Emerson, 
too, and remember a long and heated discussion in Judge Tyler s 
house with his son Randolph and others on Berkeley s idealism, 



74 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in which I maintained the non-existence of matter against all 
their ridicule. 

August n, 1850. Sunday. A lovely day without but quiet 
Sabbath thoughts are keen to me. Took a very long walk from town 
alone, and out toward the house of the late Judge Scott. Thought 
much, and took the idea of writing an Allegory on the subject of a 
mind voyaging the unsafe boundless ocean of speculations. Came 
back and read Hawthorne s delightful " Twice-told Tales " till church 
time. 

On the following day, having heard that my dear friends 
Professor Marshall and his wife, from Carlisle, had arrived at 
Paris, Va., I rode twenty miles to see them. Alas ! they brought 
me tidings that my beloved at Carlisle was in decline from con 
sumption, and that our marriage must no more be thought of. 
The only comment in my journal is " O God, O God, what a 
cloud ! " 

In my various rides through this part of Virginia, I had seen 
a beautiful country, fertile, healthy, abounding with game, also 
with birds of song and of brilliant plumage. But everywhere 
swarmed the indigent white people, displaced, reduced to idle 
ness by the slaves who supplanted them in farm and household, 
their wretched cabins crowded with children growing up in ig 
norance, vice, and hopelessness. Many of these children I 
sometimes stopped to talk with them were comely, as if there 
lingered with them traits of well-bred ancestry. For many of 
them there was not even a Sunday school within reach, and 
they could not read. Horace Mann s Massachusetts Report on 
Free Schools had given me eyes to see the deplorable condition 
of Virginia educationally, and the purpose arose in me to begin 
a propaganda for free schools in our State. I find a note of 
September 16, 1850 : " Was taken sick while writing a pamphlet 
on Education." 

In 1850 a convention assembled in Virginia to revise the 
Constitution. I was convinced that for lack of free schools 
our State was falling behind the other great States of which 
she was once leader, and worried over some letters written from 
Virginia by Horace Greeley to his paper. I wrote a letter to the 
Tribune, which answered me editorially, and declared, September 
7, 1850 : " Never will Virginia s White children be generally 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 75 

schooled until her Black ones shall cease to be sold. Our friend 
may be sure of this." 

I gave in my pamphlet a table of eleven counties in Virginia 
which had adopted school systems exempting the poor children 
from payment. These reported fair success, but the Tribune s 
paragraph was quoted to stimulate Virginia pride. 

The pamphlet bore the following inscription : 

[To THE STATE CONVENTION OF 1850.] 

Gentlemen : Trustful that you will " hear me for my cause." 
which is that of our State and our Humanity according to my earnest 
conviction, I dedicate these pages to you " with whom is all our hope." 

THE WRITER. 
Warrenton, Va., October, 1850. 

Although uncle Greenhow Daniel, editor and owner of the 
Recorder, reduced the charges for printing my pamphlet to the 
lowest figure ($50), it was the heaviest expenditure I had ever 
made out of my own savings. About 500 copies were printed, and 
not one was put on sale ; I sent them to every newspaper, public 
man, professor, preacher in Virginia, whose address I could learn. 

The personal response to my pamphlet was gratifying enough, 
but the scheme was entirely ignored. Of course, those it was 
intended to benefit the poor whites could not read, and never 
heard of it. I had written in a painstaking way, and invested 
my subject with facts and items about our State of general in 
terest, and in later life I have learned from one and another that 
the essay did produce some effect on influential men. But the 
social, physical, and financial conditions of Virginia at the time 
were little comprehended by me, in my nineteenth year. There 
was little or no longing for education among the poor whites 
probably more among the negroes. I was expecting echoes 
where there were no hills. 

But this I did not admit at once. I had used a medium 
which might be very good to teach the taught, but not to awaken 
and move the uninstructed and the indolent. The people could 
be reached only by the living voice. In the August of this year 
I had attended a very large Methodist camp-meeting in Loudoun 
County, and passed several days there. Here I had been surrounded 
by Methodists who were the gentry of that region, wealthy, 



;6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

refined, educated, and saw what a tremendous force Methodism 
was in Virginia. I also witnessed the effect on large assemblies 
producible by sermons. I was deeply moved by all this. I felt 
that I had a message for those masses of people, and how 
could it be delivered, unless from the pulpit ? 

The star-and-stripe cult was not known in the mid-years of 
the nineteenth century. I felt some pride in Virginia as the mother 
of States and statesmen, but found it difficult to credit Webster, 
Everett, and other Compromisers with any real sentiment about 
the Union. After the " Omnibus " Bill was passed, a banquet 
was given at Warrenton to our (U.S.) senators, Mason and Hunter, 
to which I subscribed because they w r ere our senators. I felt 
esteem for R. M. T. Hunter a modest and learned gentleman 
but Mason was a hard, arrogant man. He was the hero of the 
" fire-eating " Southerners because he had cracked the whip of 
" King Cotton " over the North, and brought them to their 
knees in uttermost abjectness. He had framed the Fugitive 
Slave Law, and the Northerners had consented to become slave- 
hounds and hunt down men and women escaping from bondage. 
Not many recoveries of slaves were anticipated, but Mason was 
hailed as the victor. This was the tone of the banquet at War 
renton. 

Mason had brought with him to Warrenton the " renegade 
Quaker," Ellwood Fisher, who was going about speaking and 
writing in defence of slavery as the true foundation of society. 
Colonel Phillips brought those two to his house, where I had 
some conversation with them. I do not remember anything of 
the conversation, except that I disgusted Mason by expressing 
sympathy with Senator Dodge s " Homestead Law," by which 
it was proposed to give homesteads in the territories to families 
that would reside on and cultivate them ; also by trying to 
interest him in free schools. He disclaimed interest in such 
schemes. And I, on my part, was not interested in the petty 
politics and politicians of our region which he discussed with 
Colonel Phillips. I was interested in humanity, in the education 
and salvation of the people ; I was interested too in the negro 
race as a race, and not as merely a number of pawns on the 
board where politicians were playing a game of South versus 
North. Although I had reached a theory of the inferiority of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. ;; 

that race to the white race, I was dealing with the subject seri 
ously, was searching for principles, and I had not enough sec 
tionalism to admire the proud provincialism of Mason. 

Soon after General Zachary Taylor was inaugurated in the 
presidency he passed through Fredericksburg. I saw him and 
wrote in the paper some ridicule of him. When he died I was 
in Warrenton. He had given indications that his administration 
would not be altogether favourable to slavery, and I heard a 
good many pro-slavery radicals express their satisfaction with 
his removal by Providence. It was also whispered about 
that Providence might have employed a poisoner. These things 
shocked me. I had not liked the President, but the spirit that 
rejoiced in his death belonged to an atmosphere of enmity I 
never breathed. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Education and Slavery A Mob Murder The Agassiz Theory of Races 
My Essay on the Negro Race My Real "Conversion" Tran 
scendental Methodism Preparations for the Methodist Ministry 
A Disappointment in Love The Shadrach Case in Congress 
A Slave s Vision Rockville Circuit My First Sermons. 

MY pamphlet on Free Schools excited no discussion in Virginia. 
My only important sympathisers were Law Professor Minor of 
the University of Virginia and Samuel M. Janney, Quaker preacher 
in Loudoun. My father was pleased, though he did not express 
agreement. 

I looked eagerly into my New York Tribune to see what 
Greeley would say about it. His paragraph (editorial) was 
friendly, but I only remember the closing words : " Virginia s 
white children will never be educated till its coloured children 
are free." This shaft went very deep into me, for I found that 
pro-slavery philosophers considered the Free School system a 
dangerous Northern " ism." 

My mere Virginianism had received a number of blows during 
my residence in Warrenton notably by the mob murder of a 
free negro named Grayson, at Culpeper Court House. The man 
had been sentenced for murdering a Mr. Miller, but the evidence 
against him was weak, while the local demand for a victim was 
furious. The Court of Appeals had ordered a new trial, to take 
place at Warrenton. Grayson was taken from gaol by a mob 
of several hundred who, as their victim was nobody s property, 
met but feeble resistance and hanged, protesting his innocence 
to the last. On this I wrote in the Warrenton paper, July 20, 
1850 : " The whole affair would read better among the records 
of the Spanish Inquisition, or of the feudal age of Britain, than 
by the light of the full noon of the nineteenth century." 

The innocence of Grayson was afterwards established, as 
that of most victims of the bloodhounds called lynchers would 
be by fair trial. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 79 

This was the only case of the negro murder called " lynching " 
that I ever heard of before the Union war, and it caused indig 
nation throughout the South. 

I never up to that time had heard any person say a word 
against the rectitude of slavery. The nearest to it was what my 
father had said, " It is a doomed institution." It was too close 
to my eyes to be seen. That it would ever end was not even 
prophesied by its Northern antagonists. Now, however, when 
a moral cause universal education had taken possession of me, 
slavery barred my way in every direction. Before my radical 
Jeffersonianism the negro stood demanding recognition as a 
man and a brother ; else he must be treated as an inferior animal. 

At this moment the new theory of Agassiz appeared that 
the races of mankind are not from a single pair. I had conversed 
with Professor Baird of the Smithsonian Institution on the 
subject, and found that he agreed with Agassiz. In June, 1850, 
Agassiz delivered a lecture on the subject in Cambridge, Mass., 
which was expanded into a long article in the Christian Ex 
aminer for July. In this manifesto the professor argued only 
by implication against the unity of human species ; but where he 
feared to tread my crudity rushed in. It was not the vanity of 
a youth under nineteen, but a spirit struggling for existence amid 
fatal conditions, which led me to announce in the Franklin 
Lyceum (Warrenton), of which I was secretary, a theory that 
the negro was not a man within the meaning of the Declaration 
of Independence. All of the other members, though not anti- 
slavery, exclaimed against the " infidelity " of the theory, though 
none answered my argument that negroes, if human, were 
entitled to liberty. My eccentric views were talked about, and 
I found myself the centre of a religious tempest in little Warrenton. 
If the negro was not descended from Adam he had not, like us 
whites, inherited depravity. And wherefore our missions to 
non-Caucasian races ? 

I sat down as wrangler of the new theory, surrounded myself 
with books on races, mental philosophy, and Biblical criticism, 
and achieved fifteen closely written letter pages to prove that 
mankind are not derived from one pair ; that the " Caucasian " 
race is the highest species ; and that this supreme race has the 
same right of dominion over the lower species of his genus that 



So THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

he has over quadrupeds the same right in kind but not in 
degree. 

This elaborate essay was not printed, and I had forgotten 
that it was ever written until fifty years later it came forth from 
other wrappings of my dead self. It is dated " Warrenton, Va., 
Dec., 1850." It vaguely recalls to me the moral crisis in my life. 
Whether it was the dumb answers of the coloured servants 
moving about the house, cheerfully yielding me unrequited 
services, or whether my eyes recognised in the completed essay 
a fallacy in the assumption of a standard of humanity not war 
ranted by the facts, the paper was thrown aside. The so-called 
" conversion " of my college days had been a boyish delusion ; 
the real conversion came now at the end of 1850. I had caught 
a vision of my superficiality, casuistry, perhaps also of the ease 
with which I could consign a whole race to degradation. I do 
not remember whether or not my theory of negro inferiority was 
consciously altered, but an overwhelming sense of my own in 
feriority came upon me. The last words of my Warrenton diary 
are, " Had a violent fever that night." The fever was mental 
and spiritual more than physical ; when it passed away it left 
me with a determination to devote my life to the elevation and 
welfare of my fellow-beings, white and black. The man of 
Nazareth had drawn near and said, " What thou doest to the 
least of these my brothers, thou art doing to me." 

In December, 1850, a note to my father told him that I had 
abandoned all idea of practising at the bar, that I should be 
home at Christmas, and should apply for admission to the Balti 
more Methodist Conference as a minister. Parents, relatives, 
friends, were amazed. By my writings in the Virginia journals 
and in the Southern Literary Messenger, I had acquired sufficient 
reputation to gain me a good position in Richmond journalism. 
I had studied enough law to take my place at the bar, and having 
eminent relatives in that profession my success in it seemed to be 
assured. I was not in poverty and was moving in the best social 
circles. Why then this sudden resolution to become a Methodist 
preacher ? It was long a mystery to myself, but Emerson was 
at the bottom of it. I knew by my experience to what depth a 
teacher s word might strike in an open heart. O that I could 
be even in a small way able to uplift fainting hearts and guide 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 81 

the groping as that great spirit had uplifted me, and was now 
opening a fair horizon before me ! 

Had I got hold of Emerson s Address to the Cambridge 
Divinity graduates I might have discovered the inconsistency of 
his philosophy with any form of orthodoxy ; but I had only his 
first and second series of Essays. These did away with the 
bounds between sacred and secular by making both sacred. So 
free from theological negations are these Essays that they leav 
ened my Methodism imperceptibly by idealising the whole of 
life as Methodism over-sanctified it. His transcendentalism 
corresponded with Methodist transcendentalism at various points. 
The personal character of spiritual life, soul finding the divine in 
the solitude of the individual life, the mission ordained for every 
human being these are interpretations of the Methodist doc 
trines of miraculous conversion, the inward witness of the Spirit, 
progressive sanctification, and the divine " call " to the ministry. 
I believe that my study of Emerson s Essays raised Methodism 
in my eyes, for this religious organisation was, in Virginia, alive, 
earnest, and not much interested in dogmas. I cannot remember 
ever hearing a Methodist sermon about the Trinity. 

Just after I had resolved to enter the ministry a letter came 
from Kate Emory giving a cheerful account of visits to her 
friends in Maryland, and with no intimation of ill-health ; but 
she said our correspondence must cease. I had just begun to 
study Hebrew (with Rev. Dr. McPhail, Presbyterian), and the 
works of Wesley, Adam Clarke, Watson ; but all books were 
dropped, and I went off to Carlisle to learn my fate. She who 
was to decide it was thin and pale, but no considerations of 
health affected me in the least. She had been teased about me, 
my letters had become warm enough to frighten her, she cared 
for no other man so much, but she could as yet only offer me 
her friendship. So I went off to hope, but with a dull feeling 
of hopelessness wrote in my journal, " Man was never made, I 
believe, to go or look backward." 

On my homeward way I passed a week in Washington. 
" Senator Hunter smuggled me into the Senate lobby so that 
I heard the great debate on the Boston riot." This was on 
February 18, 1851. Three days before, when the fugitive slave 
Shadrach was on trial in Boston, the case was postponed till 
G 



82 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

next day, and at that moment about forty coloured men swarmed 
into the court-room, Shadrach became undistinguishable among 
them, and was spirited away to Canada. Not a blow was struck. 
" Nobody injured, nobody wronged, but simply a chattel trans 
formed into a man," wrote Garrison in the Liberator, but the 
incident caused excitement in Congress and was described as a 
" riot." The new Fugitive Slave Law was beginning to bear 
its fatal fruits. Only a few months before I had been assisting 
at the banquet given at Warrenton to its author, Senator Mason, 
but now for the first time discovered that the new law was of 
serious importance. I shall never forget the wrath that shrivelled 
up the already wrinkled face of Henry Clay, nor his sharp voice, 
as he leaped forward and cried, " This outrage is the greater 
because it was by people not of our race, by persons who possess 
no part in our political system, and the question arises whether 
we shall have a government of white n en or of blacks." * I was 
not anti-slavery, and did not doubt at the time that it was a 
murderous attack on the court, but Clay s speech and manner 
grated on me, and I was more pleased with the speech of Jefferson 
Davis. The Massachusetts Senator Davis had tried to soothe 
the wrath of the compromisers who had predicted the reign of 
peace to follow their " Omnibus Bill " ; but when he alluded to 
the " common sentiment " in Massachusetts against the rendition 
of fugitives, a voice (that of Hale, I think) cried, " Universal 
sentiment." Whereupon Jefferson Davis said calmly, " If that 
be so the law is dead in that State. Wherever mobs can rule, 
and law is silenced beneath tumult, this is a wholly impracticable 
government. It was not organised as one of force, its strength 
is moral, and moral only. I for one will never give my vote to 
extend a single arm of the Federal power for the coercion of 
Massachusetts." This was in reply to Foote, who said he had 
private knowledge that the President, Fillmore, had ordered 

* In the "Life of Garrison " (vol. iii., p. 326), Clay is said to have used 
the phrase " a band who are not of our people." The Congressional 
Globe rightly reports the word " race," but for the rest I have an impression 
that the speech is considerably manipulated in the official report. On 
May 23 at Albany, Daniel Webster declared the rescue of Shadrach " an 
act of clear treason," but being, according to Clay, by persons with " no 
part in our political system," there was no treason in the case. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 83 

Commodore Read at Philadelphia to use all of his marine force 
if necessary to sustain this law, and cited the action of President 
Washington in marching into Pennsylvania to crush the " Whiskey 
Rebellion." 

I have said that I went to college too soon barely turned 
sixteen but what must be said of my first entrance on the minis 
try ? It was on March 17, 1851, my nineteenth birthday, that 
I was appointed to Rockville Circuit, Maryland, one of the most 
important in the Baltimore Conference. 

There was excitement among our emotionally pious servants 
at my entering the ministry. On the eve of my departure one 
of these, Eliza Gwynn, came late in the evening and desired me 
to go out to her husband, Dunmore. He met me in a little porch 
and said, "Mars Monc" but I will omit his dialect "I have 
had a vision. I saw you standing on a hill, and one came and 
blew a trumpet, and there came many people from the South ; 
and another came and blew a trumpet, and a great number came 
from the North ; and one sounded a third trumpet, and many 
came from the East ; and a fourth trumpet, and a multitude 
from the West ; and a host was around you, and to them all 
you spoke the word of the Lord." 

I had no such ambition for myself as Dunmore had for me, 
and had misgivings as to even a fair success. The vision made 
on me only an impression of the love our servants bore me. 
Out there under the stars these humble people, whom I had 
been pronouncing not quite human scientifically, pressed my 
hand, and invoked blessings on my head. I went off to my room, 
deeply moved. It was midnight. I so entered on my Methodist 
ministry. The black man gave me the only consecration I ever 
received. 

Early next morning our hostler brought to the door the 
handsome horse which my father had purchased for me, with 
fine new saddle, and the indispensable saddle-bags well stocked 
with what might be needed on my two days journey to Rockville. 
The only advice my father gave me was against relapse into 
politics. " Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds 
of the earth : seek higher things, my son ! " 

My road lay past the homes of my near relatives Glencairn, 
Carmora, Erleslie and I little dreamed that it was the beginning 



8 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of a journey that would take me so very far away from them 
all. At Stafford Court House I received an ovation from my 
Methodist uncle (Valentine) and aunts ; my grandparents being 
too gracious to reveal any regrets they may have felt at my 
adopting such a profession.* At Aquia Church, weird in its 
solitude and dilapidation, I paused for a time, and tried to picture 
my great-great-grandfather, Parson Moncure, perched in the 
little black pulpit high up a column, and his congregation as they 
gathered there a hundred years before. He was the only clergy 
man in our family line, and of all his sermons, written during a 
long ministry, not one sentence is left. But the spiritual bequest 
may be all the more important for being unwritten. 

I stopped at old Pohick church, to which the Washingtons 
occasionally came from Mount Vernon, and where Rev. Mason 
Weems, who called himself rector of Mount Vernon, sometimes 
preached. First biographer of George Washington, originator 
of the cherry-tree fable, laughed at now, Weems was yet a striking 
figure in his time. Bishop Meade, whose preaching I remember, 
and others whom I knew, had kindly memories of Weems. 

The road I was travelling was more lonely than in Weems s 
time (there was no railway to Washington), and there was in 
my boyhood a legend that robbers had their quarters in Aquia 
church. If so, they must have long before sought some more 
irequented highway. I was startled at meeting one wayfarer 
between Pohick church and Alexandria a poor Corsican with 
hand-organ, to whose tunes I listened. 

Rockville Circuit was flourishing, and required hard work for 
two preachers. My senior was the Rev. William Prettyman. 
Methodist itinerancy usually required that the junior (unmarried) 
minister on a circuit should have no fixed abode ; he was sup 
posed to live on horseback, with his wardrobe and library in his 
saddle-bags ; and otherwise to be entertained in the houses of 
the " brethren " near each meeting-house. But a room was 
provided for the junior in the cottage of the widow Wilson, a. 
mile out of Rockville. Thither I could always repair when I 
desired not to be a guest. Sister Wilson was a motherly 
hostess, the cottage and garden pleasant, and I was always glad 

"April i. I left grandpa s on this ominous day for my circuit." 

MS. Journal. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 85 

to get back to their freedom and pretty walks. But I could 
rarely stay anywhere more than a day, as there were about ten 
appointments to be filled each week, and these meeting-houses 
were distant from each other five, ten, fifteen miles. 

My first sermon was given in a small private house, " brother 
English s," at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6. Text, Gen. xlix. 18, 
lt I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." My first sermon in 
a church was the next morning, April 7, at " Goshen," on Gen. iv. 
9, " Am I my brother s keeper ? " 

The junior preacher is an annual, and his first appearance an 
important event. Goshen was far away in the \voods ; but the 
region was populous, and when I rode up that Sunday morning 
I was appalled by the number of vehicles. And when I looked 
down on the crowded seats and felt every eye fixed on me, I 
had a sort of pulpit-fright. I felt that there would be a disap 
pointment. Had a written sermon been admissible I might 
have had confidence, but one small page held all my notes. 

I knew nothing whatever of anyone before me. Were they 
educated ? Were they fond of rhetoric ? They were apparently 
well-to-do people, and some impression was on me that a good 
many belonged to fashionable churches. Not one of them knew 
that I was about to give my first sermon in a church. I had 
taken pains with the sermon, and suppose there may have been 
some response, for I find that soon after I selected it to give 
on my first appearance in Washington. 

Among my old papers I have now and then come upon 
mouldy skeletons of my earliest sermons. I cannot think what 
flesh and blood clothed them, but find that I w r as in morbid 
reaction against the worldliness my boyhood envied. On one 
occasion, hearing that some Methodist young ladies had danced 
at a ball, I preached so severely against such pleasures that the 
family resented it and joined another church. 



CHAPTER IX. 

My Early Ministry Probation Webster in the Supreme Court The 
Gaines Case F. W. Newman s Book on "The Soul" Studying 
on Horseback A Round on Stafford Circuit Sermon at Falmouth 
Samuel Janney Quaker Meeting Roger Brooke Fairhill School 
Correspondence with Emerson Visits to the Widows of John 
Q. Adams and Alexander Hamilton Kossuth in Washington 
Death of my Brother Peyton. 

MY uncle Dr. John Henry Daniel said to me, when I was leaving 
home, " So you are going to be a journeyman soul-saver." I 
did not begin life with that burden on me, and, when it came, 
was too young to question whether it was part of me my hunch 
or a pack of outside things like that strapped on Bunyan s 
pilgrim. My pack was symbolised in my saddle-bags, where 
the Bible, Emerson s Essays, Watson s Theology, Carlyle s 
Latter Day Pamphlets, Jeremy Taylor s Holy Living and 
Dying, the Methodist Discipline, and Coleridge s Aids to 
Reflection, got on harmoniously for a time. 

Dr. Daniel s label, " a journeyman soul-saver," told true in a 
sense ; it was really my own enmeshed soul I had to save. I was 
struggling at the centre of an invisible web of outer influences 
and hereditary forces. I was without wisdom. How many 
blunders I made in my sermons, with \vhich I took so much 
pains, I know not, but I remember a friendly hint from the wife 
of the Hon. Bowie Davis that a sermon of mine was too " agrarian." 
In another case the recoil was more serious ; it came through my 
presiding elder, who said, " From what I hear, a sermon of yours 
on the new birth was too profound." This troubled me deeply. 
I had supposed that Jesus meant to be profound, and put much 
study into the sermon, the only favourable response to which 
was from an aged negro woman, who, long after I had left Metho 
dism, laid her hand on my head and said, " I never knew what 
the Lord meant by our being born again until I heard you preach 
about it, and, bless the Lord, it s been plain ever since ! " 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 8; 

My early training in law courts determined my method of 
preaching. In preparing a sermon I fixed on some main point 
which I considered of vital importance, and dealt with it as if I 
were pleading before judge and jury. This method was not 
Methodism. I was in continual danger of being " too profound," 
and though congregations were interested in my sermons they 
brought me more reputation for eccentricity than for eloquence. 
This, however, was not a matter of concern to me. Ambition 
for fame and popularity was not among my faults. My real 
mission was personal to individuals. In each neighbourhood on 
my circuit there were some whom I came to know with a certain 
intimacy, aspiring souls whose confidences were given me. 
However far away I might be, they rose before me when I 
was preparing for that appointment. No general applause 
could give me the happiness felt when these guests of my heart 
met me with smiles of recognition, or clasped my hand with 
gratitude. 

It was an agricultural region, in which crime and even vices 
were rare. Slavery existed only in its mildest form, and there 
was no pauper population to excite my reformatory zeal. Nor 
was there even any sectarian prejudice to combat ; the county 
was divided up between denominations friendly to each other 
and hospitable to me. My personal influence was thus necessarily 
humanised. I could not carry on any propaganda of Methodism 
in the homes of non-Methodist gentlemen and ladies who enter 
tained me, even had I felt so inclined, without showing my 
religion more narrow than theirs. 

My belief is that I gradually preached myself out of the 
creeds in trying to prove them by my lawyer-like method. More 
over, I had the habit of cross-examining the sermons of leading 
preachers, finding statements that in a law court would have told 
against their case. At a camp-meeting in 1851 I learned that 
our presiding elder was about to preach on the resurrection of 
the body. I slipped into his hand the following query : 

A soldier fallen in the field remains unburied ; his body mingles 
with the sod, springs up in the grass ; cattle graze there and atoms 
of the soldier s body become beef ; the beef is eaten by a man who 
suddenly dies while in him are particles of the soldier s body, con 
veyed to him by the grass-fed beef. Thus two men die with the 



88 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

same material substance in them. How can there be an exact re 
surrection of both of those bodies as they were at the moment of death ? 

The preacher read out the query, and said, " All things are 
possible with God." Nothing more. It made a profound im 
pression on me that a divine should take refuge in a phrase. 
The doctrine in question involved the verbal inspiration of 
Scripture and the " Apostles Creed." 

I made a note of another thing at this camp-meeting. The 
Rev. Lyttleton Morgan, an accomplished preacher, declared that 
in his Passion and Crucifixion Christ suffered all that the whole 
human race must have suffered in hell to all eternity but for that 
sacrifice. At dinner some ministers demurred at this doctrine ; 
I maintained that it appeared to be a logical deduction from our 
theory of the Atonement. 

Rockville Circuit being near Washington, I was able at times 
to pass a few days in the capital, where I had relatives and ac 
quaintances. I attended the debates in Congress, and in the 
Supreme Court, where I heard Daniel Webster s speech in the 
famous Gaines case. It was a powerful speech, impressively 
delivered, but I had sufficient experience in courts to recognise 
several passages meant for the fashionable audience with which 
the room was crowded. He was against the appellant, Mrs. 
Gaines, who was pleading for her legitimacy as well as property, 
and described his client persistently besieged by litigation as a 
rock beaten by ocean waves. He drew all eyes on pleasant Myra 
Gaines, and I remember thinking the metaphor infelicitous. My 
sympathies were with the lady, and the " rock " might symbolise 
the stony heart of the man holding on to her property. But I 
was so interested in Webster s look and manner that, in my ig 
norance of the evidence, my attention to what he said was fitful, 
and the speech was obliterated by the strange romance rehearsed 
by the judges in their decisions. For it was in two volumes, 
the minority opinion of Justice Wayne and Justice Daniel (my 
grand-uncle) in favour of Mrs. Gaines being especially thrilling. 
No American novelist would venture on such a tale of intrigue, 
adultery, bigamy, disguises, betrayal, as those justices searched 
through unshrinkingly, ignoring the company present. 

On one of my visits to Washington I heard a sermon from 
the famous Asbury Roszel which lifted the vast audience to 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 89 

exultation and joy. His subject was the kingdom of God and 
triumphs of the Cross, and he began by declaring that it was 
universally agreed that ideal government was the rule of one 
supreme and competent individual head. This Carlylean senti 
ment uttered in the capital of the so-called Republic gave me 
some food for thought at the time ; and I remembered it when I 
awakened to the anomaly of disowning as a republican the para 
phernalia of royalty, while as a preacher I was using texts and 
hymns about thrones and crowns and sceptres, and worshipping 
a king. 

My interest in party politics had declined ; I began to study 
large human issues. One matter that I entered into in 1851 
was International Copyright. On this subject I wrote an article 
which appeared in the National Intelligencer. I took the manu 
script to the office, and there saw the venerable Joseph Gales, 
who founded the paper, and W. W. Seaton, the editor. Mr. 
Seaton remarked that I was " a very young man to be in holy 
orders," and after glancing at the article said he was entirely 
in sympathy with it. In that article I appealed to Senator 
Sumner to take up the matter, and thenceforth he sent me his 
speeches. 

I little imagined how much personal interest I was to have 
some years later in Gales and Seaton, who were among the 
founders of the Unitarian church in Washington. I used some 
times to saunter into the bookshop of Franck Taylor, or that of 
his brother Hudson Taylor, afterwards intimate Unitarian 
friends, before I knew that there was a Unitarian church in 
Washington. From one of them I bought a book that deeply 
moved me : " The Soul : her Sorrows and her Aspirations. By 
Francis William Newman." I took this book to heart before I 
was conscious of my unorthodoxy, nothing in it then suggesting 
to me that the author was an unbeliever in supernaturalism. 

The setting given by Newman s book to Charles Wesley s 
hymn, " Come, O thou Traveller unknown," made that hymn 
my inspiration, and it has been my song in many a night wherein 
I have wrestled with phantoms. 

But my phantoms were not phantasms, and brought no 
horrors into those beautiful woods and roads of Montgomery 
County. These were my study. I was wont to start off to my 



9 o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

appointments early, in order that I might have no need to ride 
fast, and when clear of a village, take from my saddle-bags my 
Emerson, my Coleridge, or Newman, and, throwing the reins on 
my horse s neck, read and read, or paused to think on some point. 

I remember that in reading Emerson repeatedly I seemed 
never to read the same essay as before : whether it was the new 
morning, or that I had mentally travelled to a new point of 
view, there was always something I had not previously entered 
into. His thoughts were mother-thoughts, to use Balzac s word. 
Over the ideas were shining ideals that made the world beautiful 
to me ; the woods and flowers and birds amid which I passed 
made a continuous chorus for all this poetry and wit and wisdom. 
And science also ; from Emerson I derived facts about nature 
that filled me with wonder. On one of my visits to Professor 
Baird at the Smithsonian Institution, I talked of these statements ; 
he was startled that I should be reading Emerson, with whose 
writings he was acquainted. At the end of our talk Baird said, 
" Whatever may be thought of Emerson s particular views of 
nature, there can be no question about the nature in him, and in 
his writings : that is true and beautiful." 

A college-mate, Newman Hank, was the preacher on Stafford 
Circuit, Virginia, and it was arranged that for one round of 
appointments he and I should exchange circuits. I thus preached 
for a month among those who had known me from childhood. 
Though few of them were Methodists, they all came to hear me, 
and I suppose many were disappointed. I had formerly spoken 
in their debating societies with the facility of inexperience, but 
was no longer so fluent. 

The culminating event was my sermon in our own town, 
Falmouth. How often had I sat in that building listening to 
sermons Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian occasionally falling 
under the spell of some orator who made me think its pulpit the 
summit of the world ! How large that church in my childhood, 
and how grand its assemblage of all the beauty and wealth of 
the neighbourhood ! When I stood in the pulpit and realised 
how small the room was, and could recognise every face, and 
observe every changing expression, and when I saw before me 
my parents, my sister and brothers, with almost painful anxiety 
in their loving eyes, strange emotions came to me ; the first of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 91 

my phantoms drew near and whispered, " Are you sure, perfectly 
sure, that the seeds you are about to sow in these hearts that 
cherish you are the simple truth of your own heart and thought ? " 
My theme was that every human being is on earth for a purpose. 
The ideal life was that whose first words were " I must be about 
my Father s business," and the last, " It is finished." 

When we reached home my uncle Dr. John Henry Daniel 
said, " There was a vein of Calvinism running all through that 
sermon." " I hate Calvinism," cried I. "No matter : the 
idea of individual predestination was in your sermon. And it 
may be true ! " My father was gratified by the sermon, but he 
said, with a laugh, " One thing is certain, Monc : should the devil 
ever aim at a Methodist preacher, you ll be safe ! " 

In this sermon, which ignored hell and heaven, and dealt 
with religion as the guide and consecration of life on earth, I 
had unconsciously taken the first steps in my " Earthward 
Pilgrimage." When I returned to my own circuit, a burden 
was on me that could not roll off before the cross. 

Our most cultured congregation was at Brook ville, a village 
named after the race of which Roger Brooke was at this time the 
chief. Our pretty Methodist Church there was attended by some 
Episcopalian families Halls, Magruders, Donalds, Coulters who 
adopted me personally. The finest mansion was that of John 
Hall, who insisted on my staying at his house when I was in the 
neighbourhood. He v/as an admirable gentleman, and so friendly 
with the Methodists that they were pleased at the hospitality 
shown their minister. Mrs. Hall, a grand woman intellectually 
and physically, was a daughter of Roger Brooke. She had been 
" disowned " by the Quakers for marrying " out of meeting," 
but it was a mere formality ; they all loved her just as much. 
Her liberalism had leavened the families around her. She was 
not interested in theology, and never went to any church, but 
encouraged her lovely daughters (of ten and twelve years) to 
enjoy Sunday like any other day. After some months she 
discovered that some of my view r s resembled those of her father, 
and desired me to visit him. 

There was a flourishing settlement of Hicksite Quakers at 
Sandy Spring, near Brookville, but I never met one of them, 
nor knew anything about them. " Hicksite " was a meaningless 



9 2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

word to me. " Uncle Roger," their preacher, was spoken of 
throughout Montgomery County as the best and wisest of men, 
and I desired to meet him. When I afterwards learned that 
" Hicksite " was equivalent to " unorthodox," it was easy to 
understand why none of them should seek the acquaintance of a 
Methodist minister. 

The Quakers assembled on first and fourth days, and hap 
pening one Wednesday to pass their meeting-house, I entered, 
impelled by curiosity. Most of those present were in Quaker 
dress, which I did not find unbecoming for the ladies, perhaps 
because the wearers were refined and some of them pretty. 
After a half-hour s silence a venerable man of very striking 
appearance, over six feet in height and his long head full of force, 
arose, laid aside his hat, and in a low voice, in strange contrast 
with his great figure, uttered these words : " Walk in the light 
while ye are children of the light, lest darkness come upon you." 
Not a word more. He resumed his seat and hat, and after a 
few minutes silence shook hands with the person next him ; 
then all shook hands and the meeting ended. 

I rode briskly to my appointment, and went on with my usual 
duties. But this, my first Quaker experience, had to be digested. 
The old gentleman, with his Solomonic face (it was Roger Brooke), 
who had broken the silence with but one text, had given that 
text, by its very insulation and modification, a mystical sug- 
gestiveness. 

After I had attended the Quaker meeting several times, it 
was heard of by my Methodist friends. One of these, a worthy 
mechanic, told me that Samuel Janney had preached in the 
Quaker meeting, and once said that " the blood of Jesus could 
no more save a man than the blood of a bullock." This brother s 
eyes were searching though kindly. 

Roger Brooke belonged to the same family as that of Roger 
Brooke Taney, then Chief Justice of the United States. His 
advice, opinion, arbitration, were sought for in all that region. 
Despite anti-slavery and rationalistic convictions, he leavened 
all Montgomery County with tolerance.* 

* Helen Clark, daughter of the Right Hon. John Bright, showed me 
a diary written by Mr. Blight s grandmother, Rachel Wilson, while 
travelling in America in 1768-69. She was a much esteemed Quaker 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 93 

One morning, as I was riding off from the Quaker meeting, 
a youth overtook me and said uncle Roger wished to speak to 
me. I turned and approached the old gentleman s carriole. 
He said, " I have seen thee at one or two of our meetings. If 
thee can find it convenient to go home with us to dinner, we 
shall be glad to have thee." The faces of his wife and daughter- 
in-law beamed their welcome, and I accepted the invitation. 
The old mansion, " Brooke Grove," contained antique furniture, 
and the neatness bespoke good housekeeping. So also did the 
dinner, for these Maryland Quakers knew the importance of good 
living to high thinking. 

There was nothing sanctimonious about this home of the 
leading Quaker. Uncle Roger had a delicate humour, and the 
ladies beauty and wit. The bonnet and shawl laid aside, there 
appeared the perfectly fitting " mouse-colour " gown of rich 
material, with unfigured lace folded over the neck, and at a 
fancy ball it might be thought somewhat coquettish. 

They were fairly acquainted with current literature, and 
though not yet introduced to Emerson, were already readers of 
Carlyle. I gained more information about the country, about 
the interesting characters, about people in my own congrega 
tions, than I had picked up in my circuit-riding. After dinner 
uncle Roger and I were sitting alone on the veranda, taking our 
smoke he with his old-fashioned pipe and he mentioned that 
one of his granddaughters had rallied him on having altered a 
Scripture text in the meeting. " In the simplicity of my heart 
I said what came to me, and answered her that if it was not what 
is written in the Bible. I hope it is none the less true." I after 
wards learned that he had added in his reply, " Perhaps it was 
the New Testament writer who did not get the words quite right." 
I asked him what was the difference between " Hicksite " and 
" orthodox " Quakers ; but he turned it off with an anecdote 
of one of his neighbours who, when asked the same question, 
had replied, "Well, you see, the orthodox Quakers will insist 
that the Devil has horns, while we say the Devil is an ass." I 
spoke of the Methodist ministers being like the Quakers, " called 

preacher, and gives a pleasant account of her visit to the Friends at Sandy 
Springs, where she was received in the home of Roger Brooke. This was 
the grandfather of our " uncle Roger." 



94 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

by the Spirit " to preach, and he said, with a smile, " But when 
you go to an appointment, what if the Spirit doesn t move you 
to say anything ? " 

Uncle Roger had something else on his mind to talk to me 
about. He inquired my impression of the Quaker neighbour 
hood generally. I said he was the first Quaker I had met, but 
the assembly I had seen in their meeting had made an impression 
on me of intelligence and refinement. For the rest, their houses 
were pretty and their farms bore witness to better culture than 
those in other parts of the county. " That I believe is generally 
conceded to us," he answered ; " and how does thee explain this 
superiority of our farms ? " I suggested that it was probably 
due to their means and to the length of time their farms had 
been under culture. The venerable man was silent for a minute, 
then fixed on me his shrewd eyes and said, " Has it ever occurred 
to thee that it may be because of our paying wages to all who 
work for us ? " 

For the first time I found myself face to face with an avowed 
abolitionist ! My interest in politics had lessened, but I re 
mained a Southerner, and this economic arraignment of slavery 
came with some shock. He saw this and turned from the subject 
to talk of their educational work, advising me to visit Fairhill, 
the Friends school for young ladies. 

The principal of the school was William Henry Farquhar, 
and on my first visit there I heard from him an admirable lecture 
in his course on History. He had adopted the novel method of 
beginning his course with the present day and travelling back 
ward. He had begun with the World s Fair, and got as far as 
Napoleon I. subject of the lecture I heard. It was masterly. 
And the whole school the lovely girls in their tidy Quaker 
dresses, their sweet voices and manners, the elegance and order 
everywhere filled me with wonder. By this garden of beauty 
and culture I had been passing for six months, never imagining 
the scene within. 

The lecture closed the morning exercises, and I had an oppor 
tunity for addressing the pupils. I was not an intruder, but 
taken there by Mrs. Charles Farquhar, daughter of Roger Brooke 
and sister-in-law of the principal, so I did not have the excuse 
that it would not be "in season " to try and save some of these 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 95 

sweet sinners from the flames of hell. It was the obvious duty 
of the Methodist preacher on Rockville Circuit to cry : " O ye 
fair maids of Fair Hill, this whited sepulchre of unbelief not 
one of you aware of your depravity, nor regenerate through the 
blessed bloodshed your brilliant teacher is luring you to hell ! 
Those soft eyes of yours will be lifted in torment, those rosebud 
mouths call for a drop of water to cool your parched tongues ; 
all your affection, gentleness, and virtues are but filthy rags, 
unless you believe in the Trinity, the blood atonement, and in 
the innate corruption of every heart in this room ! " 

But when the junior preacher is made, the susceptible youth 
is not unmade. According to Lucian, Cupid was reproached by 
his mother Venus for permitting the Muses to remain single, 
and invisibly went to their abode with his arrows ; but when 
he discovered the beautiful arts with which the Muses were 
occupied, he had not the heart to disturb them, and softly crept 
away. This pagan parable of a little god s momentary 
godlessness may partly suggest why no gospel arrows were shot 
that day in Fairhill school ; but had I to rewrite Lucian s 
tale I should add that Cupid went off himself stuck all over with 
arrows from the Muses eyes. 

However, Cupid had nothing to do with the softly feathered 
and imperceptible arrows that were going into my Methodism 
from the Quakers, in their homes even more than in this school. 
I found myself introduced to a circle of refined and cultivated 
ladies whose homes were cheerful, whose charities were constant, 
whose manners were attractive, whose virtues were recognised 
by their most orthodox neighbours ; yet what I was preaching 
as the essentials of Christianity were unknown among them. These 
beautiful homes were formed without terror of hell, without any 
cries of what shall we do to be saved. How had these lovely 
maidens and young men been trained to every virtue, to domestic 
affections and happiness ? I never discussed theology with 
them ; but their lives, their beautiful spirit, their homes, did 
away with my moral fears, and as the dogmas paled, creedless 
freedom began to flush with warm life. These good and sweet 
women, who said no word against my dogmas, unconsciously to 
themselves or me, charmed me away from the dogmatic habitat. 

When I left the Baltimore Conference, the Quakers were 



96 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

given by many Methodists the discredit of having undermined 
my faith, but their only contribution to my new faith was in 
enabling me to judge the unorthodox tree by its fruits of culture 
and character. If theology were ever discussed by them, it was 
I who introduced the subject. They had no proselytising spirit. 
I thought of joining the Quaker Society, but Roger Brooke advised 
me not to do so. " Thee will find among us," he said, " a good 
many prejudices, for instance, against music, of which thou art 
fond, and while thou art mentally growing would it be well to 
commit thyself to any organised society ? " * 

How often have I had to ponder those words of Jesus, " My 
God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? " Men do not for 
sake their God ; He forsakes them. It is the God of the creeds 
that first forsakes us. More and more the dogmas come into 
collision with plain truth ; every child s clear eyes contradict 
the guilty phantasy of inherited depravity, every compassionate 
sentiment abhors the notions of hell, and salvation by human 
sacrifice. Yet our tender associations, our affections, are inter 
twined with these falsities, and we cling to them till they forsake 
us. For more than a year I was like one flung from a foundered 
ship holding on to a raft till it went to pieces, then to a floating 
log till buffeted off to every stick, every straw. One after 
another the gods forsake us forsake our commonsense, our 
reason, our justice, our humanity. 

In the autumn of my first ministerial year I had to take 
stock of what was left me that could honestly be preached in 
Methodist pulpits. About the Trinity I was not much concerned ; 
the morally repulsive dogmas and atrocities ascribed to the 
deity in the Bible became impossible. What, then, was " sal 
vation " ? I heard from Roger Brooke this sermon, " He shall 
save the people from their sins, not in them." It is the briefest 
sermon I ever heard, but it gave me a Christianity for one year, 
for it was sustained by my affections. They were keen, and the 
thought of turning my old home in Falmouth into a house of 

" When Benjamin Hallowell, the eminent teacher in Alexandria, Va., 
came to reside at Sandy Spring, I had many interesting talks with him. 
but found that even his philosophical mind could not free itself from the 
prejudice against musical culture. The musical faculty, he admitted, had 
some uses e.g. that mothers might sing lullabies. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 97 

mourning, and grieving the hearts of my friends in Carlisle, and 
congregations that so trusted me, appeared worse than death. 
My affections were at times rack and thumbscrew. 

I had no friend who could help me on the intellectual, moral, 
and philosophical points involved. Roger Brooke and William 
Henry Farquhar were rationalists by birthright ; they had never 
had any dogmas to unlearn, nor had they to suffer the pain of 
being sundered from relatives and friends. In my loneliness I 
stretched appealing hands to Emerson. After his death my 
friend Edward Emerson sent me my letters to his father, and the 
first is dated at Rockville, November 4, 1851. Without any 
conventional opening (how could I call my prophet " Dear Sir " ?) 
my poor trembling letter begins with a request to know where 
the Dial can be purchased, and proceeds : 

I will here take the liberty of saying what nothing but a concern 
as deep as Eternity should make me say. I am a minister of the 
Christian Religion the only way for the world to re-enter Paradise, 
in my earnest belief. I have just commenced that office at the call 
of the Holy Ghost, now in my twentieth year. About a year ago I 
commenced reading your writings. I have read them all and studied 
them sentence by sentence. I have shed many burning tears over 
them ; because you gain my assent to Laws which, when I see how 
they would act on the affairs of life, I have not courage to practise. 
By the Law sin revives and I die. I sometimes feel as if you made 
for me a second Fall from which there is no redemption by any atone 
ment. 

To this there came a gracious response : 

CONCORD, MASS., 13^ November, 1851. 

DEAR SIR, I fear you will not be able, except at some chance 
auction, to obtain any set of the Dial In fact, smaller editions 
were printed of the later and latest numbers, which increases the 
difficulty. 

I am interested by your kind interest in my writings, but you 
have not let me sufficiently into your own habit of thought to enable 
me to speak to it with much precision. But I believe what interests 
both you and me most of all things, and whether we know it or not, 
is the morals of intellect ; in other words, that no man is worth his 
room in the world who is not commanded by a legitimate object of 
thought. The earth is full of frivolous people who are bending their 
H 



9 8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

whole force and the force of nations on trifles, and these are baptised 
with every grand and holy name, remaining, of course, totally in 
adequate to occupy any mind ; and so sceptics are made. A true 
soul will disdain to be moved except by what natively commands it, 
though it should go sad and solitary in search of its master a thousand 
years. The few superior persons in each community are so by their 
steadiness to reality and their neglect of appearances. This is the 
euphrasy and rue that purge the intellect and ensure insight. Its 
full rewards are slow but sure ; and yet I think it has its reward on 
the instant, inasmuch as simplicity and grandeur are always better 
than dapperness. But I will not spin out these saws farther, but hasten 
to thank you for your frank and friendly letter, and to wish you the 
best deliverance in that contest to which every soul must go alone. 

Yours, in all good hope, 

R. W. EMERSON. 

This letter I acknowledged with a longer one (December 12 , 
1851), in which I say : "I have very many correspondents, but 
I might almost say yours is the only letter that was ever written 
to me." 

Early in 1852 Kossuth visited Washington, and enthusiasm 
for him and his cause carried me there. The Washington pulpits 
had not yet said anything about slaves at our own doors, but it 
was easy to be enthusiastic for liberty as far away as Hungary, 
and so the preachers all paid homage to Kossuth. I stopped at 
the house of Rev. Lyttleton Morgan, whose wife was an authoress, 
and her sister, Carrie Dallam, the most attractive friend I had 
in Washington. With her I went to the New Year " Levee " 
at the White House, and also to call on the widow of President 
John Quincy Adams, a handsome and entertaining old lady. I 
also think it was then and by her that I was taken to see the 
widow of Alexander Hamilton. Mayor Seaton entered, and in 
courtly style took her hand in both of his and kissed it, bending 
low. She was still (her ninety-fifth year) a cheerful and hand 
some lady, gracious and dignified. Her narratives of society in 
that city, as she remembered it, sounded like ancient legends- 
I remember particularly her account of a president s drawing- 
room in the time of President Jackson. Mrs. Hamilton was, I 
believe, the first to introduce ices into the country. At any rate 
she told me that President Jackson having tasted ices at her house 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 99 

resolved to have some at his next reception for in those days, 
so simple and small were the receptions that refreshments were 
provided. Mrs. Hamilton related that at the next reception 
the guests were seen melting each spoonful of ice-cream with 
their breath preparatory to swallowing it. The reception 
itself was, she said, more like a large tea-party than any 
thing else. 

Kossuth was a rather small man with a pale face, a soft eye, 
a poetic and pathetic expression, and a winning voice. He 
spoke English well, and his accent added to his eloquence by 
reminding us of his country, for which he was pleading. I 
followed him about Washington, to the Capitol, the White 
House, and the State Department, listening with rapt heart to 
his speeches, and weeping for Hungary. I find this note (un 
dated) : " Kossuth received to-day a large number of gentlemen 
and ladies, to whom he discoursed eloquently of the wrongs of 
Hungary. Many were moved to tears, and some ladies presented 
their rings and other trinkets for the cause of the oppressed. A 
large slave-auction took place at Alexandria just across the 
river on the same day." * 

But alas ! I presently had a tragedy of my own to weep for, 
the death of my elder brother, Peyton. He had long suffered 
from the sequela of scarlatina, but, nevertheless, had studied 
law and begun practice. During the summer of 1851 he visited 
me on my circuit (Rockville) and accompanied me to St. James 
Camp-meeting. He was deeply affected on hearing me preach, 
and approached the " Mourner s Bench." No " conversion " 
occurred, and he returned home (Falmouth) in a sad mood. Then 
there arose in him the abhorrence of dogmas and the ideal of a 
church of pure reason, absolutely creedless and unecclesiastical, 
uniting all mankind. Alas, little did he know that his brother, 
even myself, was at that moment in mortal inward struggle 
with a creed ! But this I learned only after his death. For at 

* When this entry was written no word had reached me of the vain 
efforts of abolitionists to get from Kossuth an expression of sympathy 
with their cause. The " independence " pleaded for by Kossuth had no 
more to do with personal freedom than this had to do with the " in 
dependence " fought for in 1776 by American slaveholders, who forced 
Jefferson to strike out of the Declaration its anti-slavery section. 



ioo MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

that critical moment he died of typhoid fever March 13, 1852, 
fourteen days after his twenty-second birthday. There was 
bequeathed to my later years the miserable reflection that possibly 
he might have survived the attack but for the lowering of his 
strength by agitation under my preaching at the camp-meeting. 



CHAPTER X. 

Rev. Dr. Smith, Apostle of Slavery " Grace Greenwood " Truth and 
" the Truth " Frederick Circuit, Maryland Home and Garden - 
Black Becky My Sermon on Peace Samuel Tyler Mental 
Sufferings First Love Clouded A Sermon at Carlisle Essays on 
Jesuitism "Without the Camp" My New Creed In Baltimore 
with Unitarians and Quakers Sylvester Judd Dr. Burnap 
Death of Becky Leaving Methodism Partings. 

THE Baltimore Conference (February, 1852) gave me Frederick 
Circuit, now " Liberty Circuit," in Frederick County, Md. Heavy- 
hearted for the loss of my brother, I started from home, March 
26, for my new field. 

On the Potomac boat I met Rev. Dr. William Smith (Methodist), 
president of Randolph-Macon College, Virginia, distinguished by 
his propaganda of a new pro-slavery sociology. We had some 
conversation, and he asked me, " What is the principle of 
slavery ? " I answered, " It has no principle." He said, " The 
principle of slavery is clearly the submission of one will to another, 
and government is inconceivable without it." " Then," said I, 
" government is inconceivably wrong." He said, " You ought 
to marry Fanny Wright. The best government is where the 
two elements of slavery and freedom balance. I only wish I 
had you in my senior class, to which I lecture on this subject 
every week." 

Thus were the winds sown from which whirlwinds were pre 
sently reaped ! * 

I was not much interested in the territorial restriction of 

* A quarter of a century later there came to my house in London a 
lady from Virginia who had fads that would have astounded Fanny 
Wright, among others a belief that by a certain moral and mental and 
physical regimen death might be entirely escaped. My wife became 
rather fond of her. She wrote a little book on the subject which she 
wished to sell, and we bought copies to aid her. She was a daughter of 
Dr. William Smith, the pro-slavery apostle. 



102 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

slavery, but had called at the house of Dr. Gamaliel Bailey 
editor of the National Era, to see " Grace Greenwood " (after 
wards Mrs. Lippincott), who was writing for the paper. In the 
course of our conversation I told her that the negroes in our 
Virginia county, and on my Maryland circuit, were not suffering. 
She advised me to read a story in course of publication in the 
National Era by a Mrs. Stowe, entitled " Uncle Tom s Cabin." 
It was long before any noise was made about that novel, and 
only then that I read it. 

It may appear to my reader that the degree of scepticism in 
my mind was sufficient to prevent my continuing in the ministry. 
But there were enough relics of Methodism in me to render it a 
duty to contest every doubt. That, indeed, was the tradition 
of Methodism, some of whose foremost men had struggled through 
Doubting Castle. How could I at twenty be absolutely certain 
that my doubts were not temptations ? 

Moreover, I had to work out alone the newest and most 
complex of ethical problems the obligation of self- truthfulness. 
Never had I heard from teacher or preacher any exhortation 
to be true to myself. For " the truth " God s truth, the Gospel s 
truth I must surfer any martyrdom, but " truth " that is, 
my own inner conviction unless it confirmed " the truth " was 
defiance of Almighty God, and fidelity to it mere infidelity of 
a sinful nature. 

It was hard as yet to say just what I was rejecting, and 
whether with further study and experience I might not, like 
Coleridge, discover that my abhorrence of the dogmas of eternal 
punishment, human depravity, etc., might not be mere mis 
interpretation of them. I retained some kind of Satan in my 
faith, so that my love of the Father was ardent, tender, and my 
abhorrence of evil as yet without any philosophical apology for 
it as if permitted by God. 

My new circuit was large and laborious. Near a pretty 
village (Jefferson) was a cottage home for the junior preacher, 
the owner being aged " Mother Rice." The only other person 
in the cottage besides Mother Rice was a " black but comely " 
young African, " Becky." She was the blackest person I ever 
saw, but had no other negroid characters, her features being 
almost classic. We depended on Becky for everything. A more 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 103 

perfect cook, a neater washerwoman, never lived, and a happier 
heart never beat. Across all the years I can see her sunshiny, 
ebony face, and hear her happy hymns while hanging out clothes, 
or weeding the garden. 

The garden ! Eden had not sweeter roses ; every flower 
was there ; it was the haunt of humming-birds. My rooms 
were on the ground floor, and opened into this garden. I used 
to manage so as to get a good deal of time in my " Seclusaval," 
as I called it, and there I read beautiful books that brought 
heaven, into harmony with the roses and humming-birds. Carlyle s 
" French Revolution " suggested this note : " How strangely, 
grandly, it reads out here amid sunshine, flowers, birds, simple- 
hearted countryfolk ! Nothing so wondrous as War viewed 
from Peace." This inspired a sermon on the Prince of Peace. 
Having occasion to preach for Rev. Henry Sheer in Frederick, I 
gave them the " Prince of Peace." Whereon this note : " Several 
committees came to ask if I meant General Scott or General 
Pierce [rivals for the presidency] when saying I hoped to see 
the day when we would vote for a man for something better than 
having General added to his name. I took the Quaker ground, 
which excited discussion in those that heard, as it must for a 
while." 

Yes, for a while ; but some of these questioning friends had 
sad reason to remember my plea for peace, preached throughout 
the county. Ten years later their whole region was a camp and 
their churches hospitals. 

As dogmas became dim, while pastoral exigencies remained, 
I was driven to the deeper study of the human heart, to the real 
soul in myself and in others, to the conditions and sorrows of 
life. I made nearer friendships, received confidences, and once 
christened a child with my own name. An Episcopalian clergy 
man (I fear even now to name him) discovered that I was not 
orthodox, and visited me ; he was in a similar state of mind. 

The only literary man I met in Frederick was Samuel Tyler, 
who had written a book on Robert Burns, another on the Phil 
osophy of Lord Bacon. I could not get either, but felt sure they 
were interesting because of a work on " The Beautiful " he was 
writing, of which he showed me portions in manuscript. The 
basis of his philosophy of the Beautiful was that Beauty is the 



io 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

feminine principle of the Universe. He found endless illustra 
tions of this in the feminine personifications of natural beauty 
the Dawn, the Moon, Spring, Nature herself all original, neatly 
expressed, and pointed with classical quotations. 

In my garden, where youth and hope expanded with the 
morning-glories, and no fruits of knowledge were forbidden, the 
harmless little garden-snake seemed a symbol of my nascent 
optimism. In my eighteenth year I came upon " The Celestial 
Railroad " by one Nathaniel Hawthorne, and was delighted with 
the travesty of my beloved Bunyan, little thinking then that I 
should myself ever be filling up the Slough of Despond with 
volumes of philosophy, or regarding Apollyon as a useful engineer. 
After that the same magician had beguiled me with " Twice- 
Told Tales," but now he came into my garden with a volume 
which made the morning-glories languish and the pretty Eutcenia 
optimistica darken into a viper. This volume was " The Scarlet 
Letter." But it requires a chapter to describe the effect of that 
incomparable work in me, and it cannot be attempted. On the 
portal of the greater world I was entering Emerson had long been 
set as Michael Angelo s " Morning," and now Hawthorne took 
the place of " Night." But it was Night frescoed with galaxies 
and with wondrous dreams. Heroic Hester Prynne, feeling that 
what the world called her sin " had a consecration of its own," 
and gradually haloed by her sorrows, insomuch that the weary 
and heavy-laden, women especially, brought to her their per 
plexities and burdens, to find comfort and counsel, was framed 
in my soul as a picture and there it is to this day, surrounded 
with evergreen. 

Greatly in need of counsel as to my continuance in the minis 
try, I confided my doubts to Professor M Clintock. He agreed 
with my optimism ; it was faith, not scepticism, to believe that 
" all is for the best." With reference to " Redemption," he 
thought no particular theory of it was essential. No theological 
statement had ever satisfied him so much as the voice of Jenny 
Lind singing, " I know that my Redeemer liveth ! " With the 
heart man belie veth unto righteousness. 

But it was my heart that was rebelling against the dogmas. 
They were not believed because they were not beloved. I was 
encouraged to hold on in my circuit for a time by finding that 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 105 

some highly intellectual Methodists like Dr. M Clintock, though 
not themselves sceptical, considered mental doubts about doc 
trines of small importance. And for that attitude I had 
the authority of John Wesley himself, who when reproached 
for publishing the life of Thomas Firmin, the Unitarian 
philanthropist, said, " I am sick of opinions ; give me the 
man s life ! " 

Dr. Burnap, Unitarian minister in Baltimore, addressed the 
Union Philosophical Society of Dickinson College in 1852. In 
that year the members of our class of 1849 received their M.A. 
degree. At the close of June my father, a trustee of the college, 
met me there, and he was troubled about the selection of Burnap, 
though the address was not heretical. His subject, " Philosophical 
Tendencies of the American Mind," was ably treated, but I was 
vexed because he made fun of Transcendentalism. 

Among the visitors at Carlisle was Dr. Durbin, and at the 
table of Professor O. H. Tiffany he (Durbin) and Burnap drifted 
into a discussion to which my father and other guests were at 
tentive. The question between them was, of course, not doc 
trinal, but related to the general tendencies of religious thought, 
which Burnap held to be in the direction of larger liberality. 
Durbin pointed to the Tractarian movement, to the increasing 
strength of the Church of Rome, and made a vigorous argument 
against Burnap s view. 

On July 4 I preached in the Carlisle church where five years 
before I joined the church. The distinguished people who had 
come for the Commencement and the College Faculty were 
present. My subject was the " cloud no larger than a man s 
hand." My father and friends praised me, but one was present 
who probably felt that the passionate feeling in my sermon was 
partly due to the cloud no larger than a woman s hand. The 
turmoils in my mind, the increasing probability that I could not 
remain in the Methodist Church, and the inconceivableness of a 
freethinker s marriage with the daughter of a bishop and sister 
of President Emory, had kept me silent for a year. Also I had 
felt during all that time that if I were betrothed to Catharine 
Emory, a hostage beyond redemption would be given to ortho 
doxy. She had with fairness concluded that the affair between 
us was at an end, and her engagement with my friend Asbury 



106 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Morgan had just been announced. There was a subtle lightning 
in that cloud which struck something in me deeper than the 
dogmas with which I had been concerned. From some such 
experience came the motto of our family, Fide et amore. My old 
faith and first love finally crumbled together. The happier love 
came with a new temple, but Jehovah was not in it. 

And already the foundation of the new temple was laid. 
That same sermon at Carlisle, then and there composed in my 
anguish, gave the first expression to a vision risen above all my 
own negations and the systems they denied. The small cloud 
was to prove its divine origin, not by theologies and sectarian 
triumphs, but by feeding hearts athirst and an-hungered for love 
and righteousness, and, like the cloud that came from a manger 
in Bethlehem, diffusing the spirit of peace and goodwill on earth. 
How many of those who responded to my sermon recognised all 
its implications I knew not, but I returned to my circuit with 
new hope and strength. Why should I not raise my little cloud, 
assert the claims of a pure spiritual religion above all dogmas, 
and trust to its welcome by other famished hearts like mine ? I 
went back eagerly to my garden at Jefferson my " Seclusaval " 
and began writing out a work long sketched on " Jesuitism." 
It was published in the Christian Advocate and Journal in seven 
instalments, and the historical studies led up to a charge that 
the evil principle of Jesuitism survived in Protestantism. There 
was needed a " revival of the protestant spirit " ; the right of 
private judgment must be insisted on, all intolerance of differences 
of opinion repudiated, and the most poisonous fruits of Jesuitism 
be recognised equally in Protestantism " when it forbids free 
thought and free culture among the people." Such latitudin- 
arianism may lead to infidelity, I said, but history shows that 
more evil and crime result from the suppression than from the 
recognition of reason, the eye of the soul. " No man was ever 
injured by truth," said Jerome. And so on, with an extended 
plea which the Methodist organ printed without alteration or 
comment. 

" I opened," says my journal, " a correspondence with my 
parents on my scruples concerning the church and my remaining 
in it. It will every way be sad for them and me, but what is 
that to thee ? Follow thou me ! " 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 107 

On one occasion I was in extreme distress of mind, having to 
preach at a camp-meeting in the evening. Many distinguished 
preachers were present, and among them my venerated friend 
Norval Wilson. I remember my long, solitary walk in the 
woods trying to think what Christ was left me to preach about 
in the evening. I felt that Jesus was alive, that he was near me 5 
and that he said, " Poor youth, there is but one thing for you to 
do. Give up all you have, even your loving friends, and follow 
your truth as I tried to follow mine, into loneliness and suffering, 
even unto death. But you are not strong enough for that. You 
can lament over a figure of romance, the minister without courage 
to suffer shame beside the woman he loves, branded with a 
scarlet letter, but you have not the strength even to take the 
hand of Truth, which involves no infamy. Like a young man I 
met in Palestine, you will go away sorrowful." Alas, so it 
was. I said some bold things, but not boldly ; they could all 
turn in the ears of my hearers to affirmations of their common 
place beliefs. 

During that sermon I for the first time quite broke down, 
and my tears prevented me from proceeding for a minute. 
Encouraging and sympathetic exclamations came from those 
around me ; and after it was all over I walked off into the woods. 
Norval Wilson overtook me, folded me in his arms, and said, 
" Monc, I didn t know how much I loved you till you said, I 
feel so weak. 

Alas, weak indeed ! I felt as if I had in my left hand the 
fabled sword that cleaved iron bars when I needed that sword 
which passed through a floating veil. I had to pierce hearts that 
really loved me. I felt Norval Wilson s embrace deeply, but no 
further words were spoken. He wept with me, then returned 
into the camp ; and I remained where my place lay to the end 
" without the camp." 

My parents were much agitated by my avowal of doubts 
and my determination not to continue my ministry beyond the 
next Baltimore Conference early in 1853. At the close of 
October my mental troubles and the distress of my parents began 
to break down my health, and I arranged for my appointments 
so as to pass a week with my relatives in Baltimore. My mother s 
sister Jean was the wife of a merchant there, William Crane, a 



io8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

leading member of the church (Baptist) of the famous Dr. Fuller. 
There I was always affectionately welcomed. My many cousins 
were musical, merry, cultured, and one of them Anne, after 
wards Mrs. Seemuller reached literary distinction. 

To my surprise and delight both Hicksite Friends and Uni 
tarians were holding their annual meetings in Baltimore at the 
time of my arrival. " I never was more moved than by a sermon 
from a [Quaker] woman. She was a handsome woman, and the 
sermon was truly inspired." My journal does not give her 
name, but I remember that her first name was Violet. 

In the conferences of the Unitarian Association the speaker 
who most impressed me was the Rev. Sylvester Judd, of Augusta, 
Me. He was the apostle of a new idea among Unitarians the 
birthright Church. My intimacy with the Quakers had made 
this idea familiar, and my ideal church was already one to which 
every child belonged. It was a joy to listen to Judd s pleading 
for the general adoption by ministers of the principle that children 
should be members of their congregations without need of chris 
tening, and their faith associated in every child s mind with its 
innocent gaieties. Sylvester Judd s face was of exceeding beauty ; 
he had a light, clear complexion, blue eyes, and flaxen hair ; 
intellect and kindly feeling were blended in his expression ; his 
cheeks were mirrors to the glow of his enthusiasm, his voice 
sympathetic with his thought ; and there was about his mouth 
and eyes an infantine expression that rendered the great brow 
almost a surprise. Judd was an incarnation of the benediction 
on little children. 

At one of the Unitarian meetings I spoke to Dr. Burnap, 
who remembered our talk at Carlisle. Dr. Dewey was the guest 
of Dr. and Mrs. Burnap, and they invited me to dine with him. 
Dr. Burnap called for champagne in my honour. Intellectual 
and kind Mrs. Burnap was cordial, and the two ministers 
arranged for an interview next day, when they advised me 
to enter the Harvard Divinity School. 

When I returned to my circuit grievous tidings met me. 
Becky was at the point of death ! This dusky Lydia, who de 
voted her life to the comfort of the preachers, and while legally 
property owned us all alas ! she was prostrated by some fatal 
malady. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 109 

Becky was to me an ideal. She seemed to be there to let 
me and other teachers know what the pure African is capable of. 
Her quick intelligence, her humour, her humility, and simplicity, 
candour, unselfishness, her perennial happiness, and indefinable 
qualities that I never knew in any white person, had made her 
to me a revelation. I was overwhelmed with grief. Becky had 
to console me. I do not know w r hether she suffered much or not, 
for she smiled and conversed brightly, as I sat weeping beside 
her, and talking to her of heaven. 

Heaven ? So long as Becky was well and in her beautiful 
garden she was sufficiently in heaven. Her death was the end 
of a little paradise. Mother Rice was taken off to her children, 
and the cottage closed. Probably I was the last minister that 
dwelt there. I walked about the garden ; it was all desolation ; 
had the pretty little harmless snake that taught me optimism 
relapsed into the old dragon ? A terrible confrontation was here ! 
Whence was this death that struck down a happy and useful 
young woman, and wrought us all such misery ? After all, 
my optimism was academic ; it had not included the death 
of Becky. 

The awfulness of the event was universally felt in the neigh 
bourhood. On Sunday, November 15, when I preached the 
funeral sermon, the church was filled with mourners, and I 
could hardly get through my sermon. In pouring out my heart 
at Becky s funeral I for the first time startled any congregation 
by a heretical thought. " My brethren," so says my diary, 
" many of them were astonished at my preaching at Becky s 
funeral that death was not the result of sin. I had not dreamed 
of the unusualness of the thought with them. I was sorry I had 
said it. I maintained my point, albeit they were astonished at 
my doctrine." 

Various incidents determined me to delay no longer my 
resignation. I remember one particularly. I had preached at 
Urbanna, my most cultured congregation, and as I was leaving 
a lady whispered gently, " Brother, you seemed to be speaking 
to us from the moon." 

I might have suffered less had I confided to that dear friend 
the trouble I was in, but the pangs of my new birth were too 
severe. I could not think ; persons and incidents dominated 



i io THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

heart and mind ; how I dreaded to lose the affection of those 
sweet women and children ! 

My final month s round of appointments was a succession of 
heartbreaks. My last sermon was preached on December 4 at 
Jefferson, where lay Becky in her garden, my theme being 
" Eternal Joy." So says my diary ; perhaps it was of joy seen 
through tears. Next day I passed at Urbanna with families of 
lovely people. Exchanges of gifts, singing of favourite ballads, 
evening company, made my last day on Frederick Circuit, and 
on it my diary inscribed : 

" What would I think of myself if these little girls ceased to 
love me ! 

" Farewell ! O how sad to go off ! I bade them all good 
bye gave Annie a kiss left ! I shall not soon forget you all. 

" My horse almost knocked my head off by nearly falling. 
I was thrown." 

My homeward journey lay through Rockville Circuit, where 
I passed a day with my Quaker friends, who did not quite like 
my plan of going to the Divinity School. " They fear my creed 
will be made up." Uncle Roger feared I was going to assist in 
building a sort of Babel, but could not refrain from a joke on 
the fiery names of leading Unitarian preachers Bellows, Furness, 
Sparks, and Burnap. My diary notes " a difference of opinion 
[with W. H. Farquhar] on the subject of Supernatural Christianity. 
I cannot yet give it up. It is too grave a thing to give up quickly 
and immodestly. I must study it." I alluded to this subject 
in a conversation with Roger Brooke, who said that a member 
of Congress visited the neighbourhood many years before and 
placed in his hand a copy of Paine s " Age of Reason," saying, 
" See if you can answer that ! " "I read it," said uncle Roger, 
" and told him that Paine had simply attacked the abuses of 
Christianity and I was not concerned to answer him." I do not 
remember the name of the member of Congress. I had never 
seen the " Age of Reason," and could not then appreciate the 
incident. 

When the papers announced my withdrawal from the Methodist 
church, it may be that some of those dear people thought of me 
as having aspired to something grander than life in their loving 
homes and teaching in their villages. Ah, how mistaken ! Life 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. in 

with you, sweet friends, if you are living, was beautiful ! I left 
you with unspeakable grief ; and could you have recalled me in 
conformity with your loyalty and mine, could you have said, 
"Come back and tell us freely all that is in your heart!" no 
tidings could have given me more happiness. 



CHAPTER XL 

Parting from Methodism Pains of New Birth John Minor " The 
Blithedale Romance " Last Sermon Partings Hearing Thack 
eray Dr. Crooks Theodore Parker Father Taylor Ways and 
Means My Organ A Visit to Concord Hawthorne First Meet 
ing with Emerson. 

ON leaving Washington for Falmouth I again had a narrow 
escape ; on the Potomac bridge my horse was frightened by an 
approaching steamer and tried to leap into the river, getting 
almost over. 

From December 15, 1852, when I reached the old home at 
Falmouth, to February 14, 1853, when I left for Cambridge, my 
old journal is a sort of herbarium of the thorns that pierced 
father, mother, and myself. 

A cruel side of the situation was that my new steps had the 
appearance of being merely metaphysical. I was breaking my 
parents hearts so it seemed on abstract and abstruse issues, 
while really I was aiming at a new world. But this new world 
was of such a serious character the abolition of slavery, to begin 
with that any intimation of it only made the doctrinal heresies 
more painful. 

Once more on Christmas Day I heard the angel singing in old 
St. George s " Glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all 
mankind " ; once more I knelt with my parents on watch-night 
and sang the Covenant hymn, " Come let us anew our journey 
pursue " ; and once more went out on New Year s Day hiring 
day and wrote in my journal : 

I feel to-night somewhat sad. I find how little sympathy I have 
with the existing state of things. As I saw the slave-hiring to-day, 
I found out how much hatred I had of the institution and how 
much contempt for the persons engaged in it. " You look," said a 
friend, "as if you were not in the world." I am not. My dear 
relatives and friends cannot sympathise with and encourage the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 113 

deepest faith and reverence in my soul. O my Father, do thou love 
me in this time of fire. 

The most notable figure in Fredericksburg was still John 
Minor. A bachelor past middle age, he devoted himself to his 
aged and blind mother and to studies. Having occasion to call 
on him, he proposed a walk. We crossed the bridge of Stafford, 
strolled on the Washington farm, and talked on philosophy. 
He smiled at the phrase " dark ages," and thought that in the 
centuries so labelled there were some of the best heads that 
ever lived. For himself (Minor) Hobbes was final. Here was 
heresy more sweeping than I had then dreamed of. My father 
thought John Minor as good a man as any in Virginia, though his 
" infidelity " was well known. Why, then, his distress about 
my heresy ? My father said it was due to his great affection 
for me, and I made that a count in my charge against dogmas. 
Why should a heavenly Father exact dogmas that cause dis 
cord between father and son on earth ? 

My new ideas on slavery, which I did not proclaim nor 
conceal, caused my father embarrassment. Holding really the 
old-fashioned views against slavery " in the abstract," he was 
by my " abolitionism " not only involved personally, but as the 
leading layman in the Baltimore Conference in Virginia, then in 
a struggle with the Methodist Church South, involving property. 
But my uncle, Judge Eustace Conway, leader of the Southern 
sect, was too sore personally to use my eccentric position as an 
argument against the Church North. So excited was he that for 
once he spoke to me with anger. 

The presidential campaign between Franklin Pierce and 
General Winfield Scott then just ended had particularly en 
listed two of my uncles : Judge Eustace Conway, who nominated 
Pierce in the Democratic Convention, had encountered in debate 
Commonwealth s Attorney, Travers Daniel, the two being warm 
personal friends. Hawthorne, being the biographer of Pierce, 
played a leading part in the campaign. Uncle Travers declared 
that biography the most complete romance ever invented by 
Hawthorne, while Uncle Eustace could not unreservedly endorse 
a biographer who admitted that slavery was an evil which 
Providence in its own good time would cause " to vanish like a 
dream." I found it painful that Hawthorne should descend into 



n 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the arena of contending parties, but he believed that Pierce would 
make a good President. During the campaign the pro-slavery 
philosophy made rapid advance. Beverly Wellford (afterwards 
judge), a leading scholar and writer, who three years before held 
aloof from our Southern Rights Association, had become an 
extremist in advocacy of slavery and Southernism. The Well- 
fords were a historic and conservative family, and this change in 
Beverly denoted a new era in Virginia. 

Alas, that a burden should be on me to become an antagonist 
of these beloved companions of my early youth ! But ah, what 
sustaining visions shone beyond the portal so painfully entered ! 
There lay America freed from chains, slavery, strife ; there 
mankind enlightened, woman emancipated, superstition no more 
sundering heart from heart, war ended, peace and brotherhood 
universal. O Morning and Night, serene on my portal, is 
not the time at hand when Worldsoul shall harmonise with 
Oversoul ? 

There beside the Rappahannock, where two years before 
Emerson had awakened me and set my face to the sunrise, now 
came Hawthorne with " The Blithedale Romance," sequel of 
" The Scarlet Letter." The seventeenth-century Puritan, tor 
turing finest hearts to establish the kingdom of Heaven, has 
slipped into the nineteenth-century philanthropist, sacrificing 
human hearts to establish his earthly utopia. What loving 
hearts will bleed on my own new altar, and prove it built of 
stone unhewn as any dogma I am abandoning ? 

Hawthorne s " Hollings worth " became my type of the re 
former I would not be. Fictitious hells faded, the actual hells 
appear ; and on my knees I swear that it shall remain my supreme 
end to save hearts suffering not in eternity but in time, and in 
flesh and blood. Once I was surprised by the sympathy of a 
lady distinguished for her wit and beauty, the young wife of 
cousin John Conway Moncure. Their home was " Inglewood," 
where my childhood was passed, and it was while calling there 
that I was, as my note-book says, " laughed at and persecuted 
about my radicalisms and scepticisms," etc., insomuch that " I 
am often tempted to renounce all opinions but those of the 
company I am in." The sympathy came from this admired 
cousin (nee Fanny Dulany Tomlin), who confessed that she could 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 115 

not see the justice of slavery. On a previous occasion she had 
taken my side against the dogma of endless punishment, sup 
porting her view on the saying of Jesus concerning liberation 
after the uttermost farthing was paid. I portrayed this lady as 
Gisela Stirling in my " Pine and Palm." 

I mingled a good deal with young men, and participated in 
the debates of the Young Men s Society in Fredericksburg on 
general subjects. My most serious trouble was in having to 
preach once more. The minister (Krebs) being summoned away 
suddenly, his wife entreated me to take his place for one morning. 
The sermon was one on Charity, in which I tried to unite the ser 
pent s wisdom with the dove s harmlessness for a congregation 
unaware of my heresy. My father was conspicuously absent. So 
ended my Methodist ministry. 

As the time approached for my going to Cambridge my 
father, pointing to a volume, said to me, with emotion : " These 
books that you read and are now about to multiply affect my 
feelings as if you were giving yourself up to excessive brandy. 
I have considered my duty and reached this conclusion : I 
cannot conscientiously support you at Cambridge. So long as 
you stay in this house you are welcome to all I have, but I cannot 
further you in grievous error." These are nearly my father s 
words, and I replied that his position was just. 

On February 14, 1853, before leaving home, I ordered my 
horse, took a short ride, then hitched him to a poplar in front of 
our house. I then carried from the house my empty saddle 
bags and laid them on the saddle. This fine horse and the 
accoutrements, presented by my father for my circuit, I thus 
returned. Had he been at home he would have asked me to 
keep them, but it was characteristic of him to escape from part 
ings. My mother watched all the proceedings of my leaving 
home with burning cheeks, and my parting from her and my 
sister, aged sixteen, and my two little brothers was very painful. 
It also affected me to part with our servants. They were not 
aware of my new views on slavery, but one, " aunt Nancy," 
had divined enough to tell me that her husband, Benjamin 
Williams, had fled to Boston. He did not belong to my father, 
from whom no servant ever fled. Aunt Nancy had arranged a 
means by which I could communicate with her. 



ii6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Several relatives awaited me at the station and badf me 
an affectionate farewell. Ladies only ! 

That evening (February 14) I heard Thackeray lecture in 
Baltimore on the English humorists. He was the first great 
literary man to whom I had listened, and his noble presence, 
his simplicity, his felicities of thought and expression, so im 
pressed me that in after years, when I occasionally saw him in 
London, he still appeared to me as if framed in that hall with all 
the beauty and intelligence of Baltimore before him. 

My relatives, the Cranes, with whom I now passed a week, 
were as affectionate as ever, and I found my many Methodist 
friends unexpectedly cordial. My diary says : " Saw many friends 
talked much about Unitarianism and Trinitarianism. I was 
much pleased at the absence of all bitterness among my Trinitarian 
brethren about this matter of mine. Some of them I found were 
not inwardly what they were apparently. They wished me, 
too, to bridge the matter over with Arianism." 

In Philadelphia I called first on my dear Professor Crooks, 
then a minister in that city. " He told me that if I would go 
to Harvard, study faithfully, and call no man master, then 
bring my creed back there, he would subscribe it." I passed 
that evening with the Rev. Dr. William Henry Furness, with 
whom I had exchanged letters. It was an ideal home. Mrs. 
Furness was beautiful and gracious, and took an almost maternal 
interest in me on account of my entrance on a pilgrimage that 
required parting with relatives and associations. It was a house 
hold consecrated to truth, humanity, literature, and art ; and 
no one who enjoyed intimacy in it can wonder that the daughter 
(Mrs. Wister) has attained eminence in literature ; that of the 
sons, William became an accomplished painter, Frank an eminent 
architect, while Horace is the foremost Shakespearian scholar. 
Horace was about to enter Harvard College, and I thus had one 
young friend there to begin with. 

On February 25 I started for Boston. Our train suffered a 
collision, and had not my superstition been limited to the Gospels 
I might have felt serious about this third accident having 
befallen me since leaving my Maryland circuit. 

On my way I heard that the Marlboro , in Washington Street, 
Boston, was a good hotel with moderate prices. My diary 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 11; 

describes it as "a very orderly, pleasant, and orthodox place. 
They have prayers morning and night, at which a piano with 
seolian addition is used. The first thing that strikes me here 
abouts is the extreme culture of music. After prayers there is 
singing till bedtime." 

On the 26th I took Dr. Burnap s note of introduction to the 
historian, Dr. Alexander Young. He was cordial, kept me till 
the afternoon, then guided me to historic places, his conversation 
being a much-needed instruction. He took me to visit an aged 
woman who remembered the excitement about the " Boston Tea 
Party." The young men in her parents household had been 
in the riot, and she told me her recollection of their rushing in, and 
emptying their shoes of tea which they had preserved from de 
struction for the benefit of their grandmother, dependent on tea. 

Nearly a quarter of a century after this I saw some notes 
about myself by a Methodist preacher of Boston, printed in 
Zion s Herald. He stated that he met me at the Marlboro 
Hotel on my first Sunday in Boston, where I had just been to 
hear Theodore Parker. He stated that I was vexed by the 
sermon, and intimated that he found me rather homesick for 
my old Methodism. I could hardly believe this, but find it 
confirmed in my note-book : " February 27. Went to hear 
Theodore Parker. His sermon was on Good and Evil Temper. 
Text, Prov. xv. 17, Better is a dinner of herbs, etc. I don t 
like him at all, and wish I had worshipped at King s Chapel with 
Mr. Peabody, whom, with his whole family, I love." 

I had been introduced to Dr. Ephraim Peabody by Dr. 
Burnap, and thus into a charming circle. Dr. Peabody s poetic 
intellect and sweetness of disposition were enshrined in a beautiful 
countenance. Mrs. Peabody was one of the much-admired 
Derby sisters, of whom one married Mr. Rogers, of Roxbury, and 
another the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop. With these three families 
I found a gracious hospitality. Dr. Derby (unmarried), the 
brother of these ladies, and charming as they, had been pro 
fessionally educated in Paris, but devoted himself mainly to the 
promotion of musical culture in Boston ; he superintended the 
King s Chapel choir the finest in Boston. He was a founder 
of the Music Hall, and my musical enthusiasm was by him 
befriended with tickets to oratorios and other concerts. 



ii8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

As to my worry at the first sermon I heard in Boston that 
of Theodore Parker I was disturbed by the lack of anything 
in the Music Hall or in the secular music sympathetic with my 
lonely and forlorn heart. 

In the afternoon I was consoled by hearing at the Seamen s 
Bethel the famous Father Taylor. I had read the graphic 
description of him by Charles Dickens (" American Notes "), 
and had heard that Emerson was his admirer. Someone told 
me that Taylor was a sort of Arian ; also that in a circle of his 
ministerial brethren where Emerson was spoken of as leading 
youth to hell, Father Taylor remarked, " It may be that Emerson 
is going to hell, but of one thing I am certain : he will change the 
climate there and emigration will set that way." 

After listening to his sermon plain, practical, in no part 
sensational I approached Father Taylor and told him I had 
just left the Baltimore Conference. He urged me to go home 
with him, and on the way was at first severe about my leaving 
the Methodist church. I answered that if I could, like himself, 
be a Methodist and ignore the Trinitarian dogma, I would have 
done so ; but Methodism in Boston differed from that in the 
Baltimore Conference. The old man relented. " Well," said he, 
" our Southern brethren are very strict about some things of 
which they know nothing." I then knocked at the door of his 
heart with the name of Emerson, and it opened wide. He told 
me, I think, that Emerson was a contributor to the Seamen s 
Bethel, and at any rate interested me by his account of Emerson 
as a man, and apart from his writings. 

In the evening, at supper with the Ephraim Peabodys, I found 
that Unitarians were not made for the sabbath. The two daugh 
ters one of whom married Mr. Eliot, now President of Harvard, 
the other the Rev. Dr. Bellows were lovely enough to consecrate 
their festal Sunday, and I found it easy to slip out of Methodist 
Sabbatarianism. After the mirth most of us went to the Music 
Hall, and what happiness awaited me there ! "At night," says 
my diary, " I heard my first oratorio (Messiah). O the ineffable 
delight ! Fifty sermons such as I heard in the same place in the 
morning could not breathe so much piety and sublimity through 
my soul as that grand oratorio." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 119 

There was something rather hard about Parker s manner at 
first that may have been due to very natural misgivings. Having 
found that he was the man most likely to help me fulfil Aunt 
Nancy s commission, I carried a note of introduction to him from 
some anti-slavery friend at Cambridge, but even anti-slavery 
men might be mistaken. A Virginian asking the whereabouts of 
a negro might properly be met with hesitation, though it did 
not occur to me. I was courteously received in his large library, 
where he sat at his desk beneath his grandfather s old musket 
fixed to the wall. He took down the fugitive s name, etc., and 
said he would make inquiries, appointing a day for my return. 
For the rest he showed interest in my experiences, and spoke with 
such admiration of Emerson that I began to warm towards him. 
A few days later he went with me through the negro quarters, 
and I got still nearer to him. I remember, by the way, that a 
man met us and asked the way to the Roman Catholic church. 
Parker took pains to inform him, and then remarked, " A heretic 
may sometimes point a man to the True Church." But he did 
not smile. At length we entered into the house of some intelli 
gent coloured people, who saluted Parker with the greatest 
homage, which he received with pathetic humility. " This," he 
said, " is a Virginian, but an honourable Virginian, who wishes 
to find one Benjamin Williams, who some time ago escaped from 
his master in Stafford County, Va., and for whom he has a message 
from his wife, Nancy Williams. I hope you will be able to 
discover Mr. Williams." 

After a brief consultation with others of the family, the man 
went out to bring some neighbours, and meanwhile I was quite 
overcome by the pleasant conversation of Parker with the humble 
women around him. He spoke sweetly and graciously to young 
and old. It was all beautiful and touching, and I was ashamed 
that I had disliked him. The man returned with several neigh 
bours, and having inquired closely as to the fugitive s appearance, 
they remembered such a man, who was in Canada. A little 
later I had the satisfaction of sending his address to a free negro 
in Falmouth, who conveyed it to Aunt Nancy. 

When I left home I had a good stock of clothing, 140 books, 
and about a hundred dollars. I did not doubt that at Cambridge 
I could make some money by preaching at various places, and 



120 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

also perhaps by writing articles. But from Dr. Burnap in Balti 
more I learned that only Seniors were permitted to preach, and 
that my studies would not allow time for articles. On learning that 
my father could not conscientiously support me at a Unitarian 
school, Dr. Burnap collected among his friends $160 and said, 
"It is not a loan, but if in the future you find some theological 
student needing help you can assist him if you have the means." 
I thus went on to Cambridge feeling quite rich, and when I 
entered the Divinity School, had the good fortune to find that 
an organist was needed in our little chapel. I was equal to the 
performance of simple pieces, and the Faculty gave me for my 
services (at morning and evening prayers weekdays) fifty dollars 
the college year. To this Professor Noyes added from some fund 
$40 for my instruction by an accomplished organist, of whom I 
took lessons twice a week. 

And ah, how I loved that sweet little organ ! Most of the 
divinity students could visit relatives from Saturday to Monday, 
or on other holidays, but in such intervals I visited my beloved 
organ (filled by a pedal), and, locking the chapel door, solaced 
my heart with sweet old tunes that alone remained with me 
from Methodist days, and which surrounded me with a " choir 
invisible," but not in any invisible world choirs that were still 
chanting in Virginia, in Maryland, and at Carlisle. 

May 3, 1853, is a date under which I wrote a couplet from 
Emerson s " Woodnotes " : 

Twas one of the charmed days 
When the genius of God doth flow ; 

for on that day I first met Emerson. Dr. Palfrey, on finding 
in our conversations that it was Emerson who had touched 
me in my sleep in Virginia, advised me to visit him. I felt shy 
about invading the " spot that is sacred to thought and God," 
but he urged me to go, and gave me a letter to Emerson. I 
knew too well the importance of a morning to go straight to 
Emerson s house, and inquired the way to the Old Manse. It 
was a fortunate excursion. The man I most wished to meet 
was Emerson ; the man I most wished to see was Hawthorne. 
He no longer resided at the Old Manse, but as I was gazing from 
the road down the archway of ash-trees at the house whose 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 121 

"mosses" his genius had made spiritual moss-roses, out stepped 
the magician himself. It has been a conceit of mine that I had 
never seen a portrait of Hawthorne, but recognised him as one 
I had seen in dreams he had evoked. At any rate, I knew it was 
my Prospero. Who else could have those soft-flashing, un 
searchable eyes, that beaut e du diable, at middle age ? He did 
not observe me, and as I slowly followed him towards the village, 
doubts were awakened by the elegance and even smartness of 
his dress. But I did not reflect that Prospero had left his isle, 
temporarily buried his book, and was passing from his masque 
to his masquerade as consul at Liverpool and man of the 
world. 

Hawthorne was making calls before leaving for Europe. 

I felt so timid about calling on Emerson it appeared such 
a one-sided affair that I once turned my steps towards the 
railway station. But soon after twelve I knocked at Emerson s 
door, and sent in Dr. Palfrey s letter, with a request that I might 
call on him during the afternoon. The children came to say 
that their father was out, but would return to dinner at one, 
and their mother wished me to remain. The three children 
entertained me pleasantly, mainly in the bower that Alcott had 
built in the front garden. I was presently sent for. 

Emerson met me at the front door, welcome beaming in his 
eyes, and took me into his library. He remembered receiving 
a letter from me two or three years before. On learning that I 
was at the Divinity School and had come to Concord simply to 
see him, he called from his library door, " Queeny ! " Mrs. 
Emerson came, and I was invited to remain some days. I had, 
however, to return to college that evening, and though I begged 
that his day should not be long interfered with, he insisted on 
my passing the afternoon with him. When we were alone, 
Emerson inquired about the experiences that had led me away 
from my Methodism, and about my friendships. " The gods," 
he said, " generally provide the young thinker with friends." 
When I told him how deeply words of his, met by chance in an 
English magazine, had moved me while I was a law student in 
Virginia, he said, " When the mind has reached a certain stage 
it may be sometimes crystallised by a slight touch." I had so 
little realised their import, I told him, that they only resulted in 



122 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

leading me to leave the law for the Methodist ministry. It had 
been among the Hicksite Quakers that I found sympathetic 
friends, after entering on the path of inquiry. He then began 
to talk about the Quakers and their inner light. He had formed 
a near friendship with Mary Rotch of New Bedford. " Mary 
Rotch told us that her little girl one day asked if she might do 
something. She replied, What does the voice in thee say ? 
The child went off, and after a time returned to say, Mother, 
the little voice says, no. That," said Emerson, " starts the 
tears to one s eyes." 

He especially respected the Quaker faith that every " scrip 
ture " must be held subject to the reader s inner light. " I am 
accustomed to find errors in writings of the great men, and it is 
an impertinence to demand that I shall recognise none in some 
particular volume." 

The children presently came in Ellen, Edward, and Edith. 
They were all pretty, and came up to their father with their 
several reports on the incidents of the morning. Edith had 
some story to tell of a trouble among one or two rough families 
in Concord. A man had hinted that a woman next door had 
stolen something, and she had struck him in the leg with a 
corkscrew. Emerson summed this up by saying, " He insinuated 
that she was a rogue, and she insinuated the corkscrew in his 
leg." Ellen perceived the joke, and I many times remarked 
the quickness with which, while not yet out of girlhood, she 
appreciated every word of her father. 

The dinner was early ; the children were with us, and the 
talk was the most homelike and merry that I had known for a 
long time. When the children were gone, Mrs. Emerson told 
me that they had been christened. " Husband was not willing 
the children should be christened in the formal way, but said he 
would offer no objection when I could find a minister as pure and 
good as the children. That was reasonable, and we waited some 
time ; but when William Henry Channing came on a visit to us, 
we agreed that he was good enough to christen our children." 

While Emerson was preparing for the walk, I looked about 
the library. Over the mantle hung a large copy of Michael 
Angelo s " Parcae " ; there were two statuettes of Goethe, of 
whom also there was an engraved portrait on the wall. After- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 123 

wards Emerson showed me a collection of portraits Shake 
speare, Dante, Montaigne, Goethe, and Swedenborg. The furni 
ture of the room was antique and simple. There were four long 
shelves completely occupied, he said, by his MSS., of which 
there must have been enough to furnish a score of printed 
volumes. 

Our walk was around Walden Pond, on both sides of which 
Emerson owned land. Our conversation related to the religious 
ferment of the time. He said that the Unitarian churches were 
stated to be no longer producing ministers equal to their fore 
runners, but were more and more finding their best men in those 
coming from orthodox churches. That was a symptom. Those 
from other churches, having gone through experiences and 
reached personal convictions strong enough to break with their 
past, would, of course, have some enthusiasm for their new faith. 
But the Unitarians might take note of that intimation that 
individual growth and experience are essential for the religious 
teacher. I mentioned Theodore Parker, and he said, "It is a 
comfort to remember that there is one sane voice amid the reli 
gious and political affairs of the country." I said that I could 
not understand how I could have tolerated those dogmas of 
inherited depravity, blood atonement, eternal damnation for 
Adam s sin, and the rest. He said, " I cannot feel interested 
in Christianity ; it seems deplorable that there should be a 
tendency to creeds that would take men back to the chimpanzee." 
He smiled at the importance ascribed to academic terms. " I 
have very good grounds for being Unitarian and Trinitarian too ; 
I need not nibble at one loaf for ever, but eat it and go on to 
earn another." He said that while he could not personally 
attend any church, he held a pew in the Unitarian church for 
his wife and children who desired it, and indeed would in any 
case support the minister, because it is well " to have a conscien 
tious man to sit on school committees, to help town meetings, 
to attend the sick and the dead." 

As we were walking through the woods he remarked that 
the voices of some fishermen out on the water, talking about 
their affairs, were intoned by the distance and the water into 
music ; and that the curves which their oars made, marked under 
the sunlight in silver, made a succession of beautiful bows. This 



i2 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

may have started a train of thought related to the abhorrence 
I had expressed of the old dogmas, to which I had added some 
thing about the Methodist repugnance with which I had witnessed 
in Maryland some Catholic ceremonies. " Yet," he said, " they 
possess beauty in the distance. When one sees them on the 
stage processions of priests in their vestments chanting their 
hymns at the opera they are in their place, and offend no 
sentiment." 

I mentioned a task set me at the Divinity School, to write 
an essay on " Eschatology," and Emerson said, " An actually 
existent fly is more important than a possibly existent angel." 
Again presently: "The old artist said, Pingo in ceternitatem; 
this ceternitatem for which I paint is not in past or future, but is 
the height of every living hour." 

When we were in a by-way among the bushes, Emerson 
suddenly stopped and exclaimed, " Ah ! there is one of the 
gods of the wood ! " I looked and saw nothing ; then turned 
to him and followed his glance, but still beheld nothing unusual. 
He was looking along the path before us through a thicket. 
" Where ? " I asked. " Did you see it ? " he said, now moving 
on. " No ; I saw nothing. What was it ? " " No matter," said 
he gently. I repeated my question, but he still said smilingly, 
* Never mind, if you did not see it." I was a little piqued, but 
said no more, and very soon was listening to talk that made 
my Eschatology seem ridiculous. Perhaps the sylvan god I 
had missed was a pretty snake, a squirrel, or other little note 
in the symphony of nature. 

My instruction in the supremacy of the present hour began 
not so much in Emerson s words as in himself. Standing beside 
the ruin of the shanty Thoreau built with his own hands and 
lived in for a year at a cost of twenty-eight dollars, twelve and 
a half cents, Emerson appeared an incarnation of the wondrous 
day he was giving me. 

My enthusiasm for Margaret Fuller Ossoli, excited by her 
" Memoirs," led Emerson in parting to give me a copy of her 
" Woman in the Nineteenth Century " an English edition she 
had sent him from London, with her initials in it. At my 
request he added his own name and the date. 

That evening I sat in my room in Divinity Hall (No. 34) as 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 125 

one enriched, and wrote : " May 3. The most memorable day 
of my life : spent with Ralph Waldo Emerson ! " 

Two days later I attended a great dinner given in Boston 
to Senator Hale of New Hampshire. I went over with Dr. 
Palfrey, who was chairman. Emerson was there, but when 
Palfrey called for a speech from him he had departed. What 
was my chagrin, on my return to the Divinity School, to find 
that Emerson had been there to call upon me ! 



CHAPTER XII. 

Summer at Concord Thoreau Oriental Books Persian " Desatir " 
The " Rose Garden " of Saadi Hon. Samuel Hoar Judge Rock- 
wood Hoar EHzabeth Hoar Mrs. Ripley and the " Old Manse " 
Goethe William Emerson Concord Children A Spiritist Adven 
ture Agassiz at Harvard College Agassiz, Alcott, and Emerson 
in Symposium. 

BEING homeless in the North, my summer vacation (1853) was 
passed at Concord. The Emersons found for me a very pleasant 
abode at " Hillside," on Ponkawtasset Hill, about a mile out of 
the village, where Ellery Channing once lived, and where he 
wrote his poem on New England. Two sisters, the Misses Hunt, 
educated ladies, received me into this pleasant cottage, where I 
was the only boarder. These ladies were cousins of Miss Martha 
Hunt, whose suicide in Concord River and the recovery of her 
body are described in Hawthorne s " Blithedale Romance." 
They were troubled because G. W. Curtis, in his " Homes of 
American Authors," had suggested that Martha s suicide was 
due to the contrast between her transcendental ideals and the 
coarseness of her home. They described the family of their 
cousin as educated people. One of these sisters walked with me 
to the river and pointed out all the places connected with the 
tragedy, and some years later another cousin drowned herself 
there. 

Emerson introduced me to his friends. First of all he took 
me to Henry Thoreau, who lived in the village with his parents 
and his sister. The kindly and silent pencil-maker, his father, 
John Thoreau, was French in appearance, and Henry resembled 
him physically ; but neither parent impressed me as possessing 
mental qualities that could account for such a rare spirit as 
Henry. He was thirty-six when I met him. He received me 
pleasantly, and asked what we were studying at Cambridge. I 
answered, " The Scriptures." " Which ? " he asked. Emerson 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 127 

said, " You will find our Thoreau a sad pagan." Thoreau had 
long been a reverent reader of Oriental scriptures, and showed 
me his Bibles, translated from various races into French and 
English. 

He invited me to come next day for a walk, but in the morning 
I found the Thoreaus agitated by the arrival of a coloured fugitive 
from Virginia, who had come to their door at daybreak. Thoreau 
took me to a room where his excellent sister Sophia was minister 
ing to the fugitive, who recognised me as one he had seen. He 
was alarmed, but his fears passed into delight when after talking 
with him about our county I certified his genuineness. I observed 
the tender and lowly devotion of Thoreau to the African. He 
now and then drew near to the trembling man, and with a cheerful 
voice bade him feel at home, and have no fear that any power 
should again wrong him. That whole day he mounted guard 
over the fugitive, for it was a slave-hunting time. But the guard 
had no weapon, and probably there was no such thing in the 
house. 

The next day the fugitive was got off to Canada, and I en 
joyed my first walk with Thoreau. He was a unique man every 
way. He was short of stature, well built ; every movement was 
full of courage and repose ; his eyes were very large, and bright, 
as if caught from the sky. " His nose is like the prow of a ship," 
said Emerson one day. He had the look of the huntsman of 
Emerson s quatrain : 

He took the colour of his vest 
From rabbit s coat and grouse s breast ; 
For as the wild kinds lurk and hide, 
So walks the huntsman unespied. 

The cruellest weapons, however, which this huntsman took with 
him were lenses and an old book in which to press plants. He 
was not talkative, but his occasional monologues were extra 
ordinary. I remember being surprised at every step with reve 
lations of laws and significant attributes in common things as 
a relation between different kinds of grass and the geological 
characters beneath them, the variety and grouping of pine- 
needles and the effect of these differences on the sounds they 
yield when struck by the wind, and the varieties of taste repre 
sented by grasses and common herbs when applied to the tongue. 



128 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

He offered me a peculiar grass to chew for an instant, saying, 
" It is a little sharp, but an experience." Deep in the woods 
his face shone with a new light. He had a mental calendar of 
the flora of the neighbourhood, and would go some distance 
around to visit some floral friend. We were too early for the 
hibiscus, a rare flower in New England, which I desired to see. 
He pointed out the spot near the river where alone it could be 
found, and said it would open about the following Monday, and 
not stay long. I went on Wednesday or Thursday, but was too 
late the petals were scattered on the ground. 

Thoreau ate no meat ; he told me his only reason was a 
feeling of the filthiness of flesh-eating. A bear-huntsman he 
thought was entitled to his steak. He had never attempted to 
make any general principle on the subject, and later in life ate 
meat in order not to cause inconvenience to the family. 

On our first walk I told him the delight with which I read 
his book. " A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers." He 
said that the whole edition remained on the shelf of his publisher, 
who wished to get rid of them. If he could not succeed in giving 
them away they would probably be sold as old paper. I got 
from him valuable hints about reading. He had studied care 
fully the old English Chronicles, and Chaucer, Froissart, Spenser 
and Beaumont and Fletcher. He recognised kindred spirits in 
George Herbert, Cowley, and Quarles considering the latter a 
poet but not an artist. He explored the old books of voyages 
Drake, Purchas, and others who assisted him in his circum 
navigation of Concord. The Oriental books were his daily bread ; 
the Greeks (especially ^Eschylus, whose " Prometheus " and 
" The Seven against Thebes " he translated finely) were his 
luxuries. He was an exact Greek scholar. Of moderns he 
praised Wordsworth, Coleridge, and to a less extent Carlyle and 
Goethe. He admired Ruskin s " Modern Painters," though he 
thought the author bigoted, but in the " Seven Lamps of Archi 
tecture " he found with the good stuff " too much about art 
for me and the Hottentots. Our house is yet a hut." He enjoyed 
William Gilpin s " Hints on Landscape Gardening." He had 
read with care the works of Franklin. He had as a touchstone 
for authors their degree of ability to deal with supersensual facts 
and feelings with scientific precision. What he admired in 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 129 

Emerson was that he discerned the phenomena of thought and 
functions of every idea as if they were antenna or stamina. 

It was a quiet joke in Concord that Thoreau resembled 
Emerson in expression and in tones of voice. He had grown 
up from boyhood under Emerson s influence, had listened to 
his lectures and his conversations, and little by little had grown 
this resemblance. It was the more interesting because so super 
ficial and unconscious. Thoreau was an imitator of no mortal ; 
but Emerson had long been a part of the very atmosphere of 
Concord, and it was as if this element had deposited on Thoreau 
a mystical moss. 

During that halcyon summer I read the Oriental books in 
Emerson s library, for he not only advised me in my studies, 
but insisted on lending me books. To my hesitation about 
taking even to Ponkatasset the precious volumes, he said, " What 
are they for ? " In my dainty little room, whose window opened 
on a beautiful landscape with the Musketaquit wandering through 
it to the Merrimac, or perhaps seated in the vine-covered veranda y 
I read Wilkins " Bhagavat Geeta," which thenceforth became 
part of my canon. Close indeed to my heart came the narrative 
of the charioteer (the god Krishna in disguise) driving Arjoona 
to the battlefield, where the youth sees that his struggle is to be 
with his parents, teachers, early companions. 

Emerson also introduced me to the Persian " Desatir." In 
lending me this he said that he regarded the ancient Persian 
scriptures as more intellectual than the sacred writings of other 
races. I found delight in these litanies uttered in the beginning 
of our era, amid whose exaltations there was always the happy 
beam of reason. " Thy knowledge is a ray of the knowledge of 
God." " O my Prophet ever near me, I have given thee an 
exalted angel named Intelligence." " How can we know a pro 
phet ? By his giving you information regarding your own 
heart." 

Emerson also in that summer introduced me to Saadi of 
Schiraz, who has been to me as an intimate friend through life s 
pilgrimage. For the " Rose Garden " (Gulistan) I had been 
prepared by my garden in Frederick Circuit, my " Seclusaval " : 
Saadi was its interpreter, and restored it to me. For I could 
not enter deeply into wild nature, but dearly loved a garden. 
J 



1 3 o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

One day when I was walking with Emerson in his garden, he 
stopped near a favourite plum and said, " This is when ripe a 
fruit of paradise." He then discovered one that was ripe and 
managed to pluck it for me. How simply was this man fulfilling 
all my youthful dreams ! He personally loved Saadi, and later 
edited the " Gulistan." One day he told me he had found some 
where a story about him. Saadi was travelling on foot towards 
Damascus, alone and weary. Presently he overtook a boy travel 
ling the same way, and asked him to point out the road. The 
boy offered to guide him some distance, and in the course of 
conversation Saadi spoke of having come from Persia and from 
Schiraz. " Schiraz ! " exclaimed the boy ; " then perhaps you 
can tell me something of Sheik Saadi of Schiraz." The traveller 
said, " I am Saadi." Instantly the boy knelt and with tears 
kissed the hem of his skirt, and after that could not be parted 
from Saadi, but guided and served him during his stay in 
Damascus. 

(And lo, here I am with my grey hairs seeing my own Saadi 
as he told me the little tale that filled my eyes, all unconscious 
that my soul was that of the Damascus boy and was kissing the 
hem of his garment !) 

I made the acquaintance of several elderly persons in Concord 
who told me incidents related by their grandparents concerning 
the Concord fight of April 19, 1775, but I was too much interested 
in the heroes of 1853 to care much for those of the old Revolution. 
One day Emerson pointed out to me across the street the vener 
able Hon. Samuel Hoar and his daughter Elizabeth, and told me 
the story of their visit to Charleston, S.C. (1844), the eminent 
lawyer being commissioned by his State to plead for the release 
of Massachusetts seamen seized from ships and imprisoned there 
because of their colour. Amid threats of violence the lawyer 
and his daughter were driven out of Charleston unheard. I had 
not known this, and thenceforth bowed low whenever I passed 
the old lawyer. Without any historic halo the Hon. Samuel 
Hoar would have arrested the attention of a stranger not only 
by his very tall thin form and the small face blonde and beard 
less that looked as if come out of Bellini s canvas, but also 
by his dreamy look and movement. He was seventy-five, but 
no indications of age explained that absorbed look. Probably 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 131 

it was this as well as the face that suggested to Emerson a 
resemblance to Dante. " He is a saint," said Emerson, as the 
old gentleman passed one day ; " he no longer dwells with us 
down on earth." There could hardly be a greater contrast than 
that between the old man and his son Judge Rockwood Hoar. The 
" Jedge," as Lowell calls him in " The Biglow Papers," made an 
admirable attorney-general of the United States, but his force 
was almost formidable in little Concord. One felt in meeting 
him that the glasses on those bright eyes were microscopic, and 
that one was under impending cross-examination. He was ration 
alistic and a " free-soiler," though his anti-slavery record did 
not satisfy abolitionists.* The judge was unconscious of the 
satirical accent in his humour. He was personally devoted to 
Emerson, who, however, rather dreaded him, as he told me half- 
humorously, on account of his tendencies to remorselessly logical 
talk. The judge, however, was very amiable in his family, and 
especially with his sister Elizabeth. The death of Emerson s 
brilliant brother Charles, to whom Miss Elizabeth was betrothed, 
was the pathetic legend of Concord, and the reverential affection 
of Emerson for her represented a sentiment of the community. 
But the lady, in a sense widowed, was interested and active in 
all the culture and affairs of Concord ; her sorrows had turned 
to sunshine for those around her. 

Mrs. Ripley, the widow of the Rev. Samuel Ripley, a kinsman 
of Emerson, occupied the famous " Old Manse." An admirable 
sketch of her life was written by Elizabeth Hoar. She had a 
wide reputation for learning. I had heard at Cambridge that 
when students were rusticated they used to board at Concord 
in order to be coached by her. She was a fine botanist. A legend 
ran that Professor Gray called on her and found her instructing 
a student in differential calculus, correcting the Greek translation 
of another, and at the same time shelling peas, and rocking her 
grandchild s cradle with her foot. But never was lady more 
simple and unostentatious. In her sixty-third year she was 
handsome, and her intelligent interest extended from her fruit - 

* A severe criticism on Judge Hoar by Wendell Phillips was resented 
even by Emerson. The judge was asked by Sanborn whether he was 
going to the funeral of Wendell Phillips, and replied, " No, but I approve 
of it." 



132 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

trees and poultry to the profoundest problems of her time. Thus 
the Old Manse had for me precious "mosses" which Hawthorne 
had not gathered. Her daughters Phoebe and Sophia (afterwards 
wife of Professor Thayer of Cambridge) always met me with a 
friendliness gratefully remembered. No doubt they and other 
ladies in Concord bore in mind that I was far away from my rela 
tives. I found in Mrs. Ripley an intelligent sympathiser with 
my religious ideas. She was a Theist through recognition of a 
supreme Reason intimated in the facts of individual reason. She 
said, " I cannot believe in miracles, because I believe in God." 
The subject of spirit manifestations was considered by her worthy 
of study only as a contemporary illustration of the fallaciousness 
of human testimony wherever emotions or passions are involved. 
" People believe when they ve a mind to," she said. 

The well-informed rationalism of Mrs. Ripley, and of her 
nearest friend Elizabeth Hoar, led me to suppose that the ideas 
of Emerson were universal in Concord. In this, however, I 
presently discovered my mistake. One day when I was with 
Emerson and his wife he referred to Goethe, and I perceived 
that the great German was a sort of bogey to her. She quoted 
verbatim two sentences from a letter written to her by her hus 
band before their marriage, in which he expressed misgivings 
about Goethe, beneath whose fine utterances he had found " no 
faith." Emerson was silent, and his wife went on in a way 
almost pathetic to describe her need of faith. 

When after the talk at dinner I was walking with Emerson, 
he said that Goethe had written some things " Elective Affini 
ties," for instance which could be really read only by minds 
which had undergone individual training. He was the only 
great writer who had turned upon the moral conventions and 
demanded by what right they claimed to control his life. But 
people with eyes could not omit Goethe. 

Mr. William Emerson, an eminent lawyer of New York, 
occasionally visited his younger brother in Concord. I re 
member him as an interesting gentleman, and was surprised to 
find any lawyer with his unworldly and even poetic look. In a 
letter from Germany of William Emerson shown me by his son, 
Dr. Emerson of New York, he speaks of his acquaintance with 
Goethe. William was studying divinity, but found that he had 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 133 

not even Socinian faith enough to preach, and was in distress 
about the disappointment to his parents. Goethe advised him 
not to disappoint them, but go on with his ministry. 

I think the Goethean cult at Cambridge and Concord had 
cooled. And by the way there was a droll relic of it in the 
Emerson household ; one of the children Edith, I think had 
the fancy to name her handsome cat " Goethe." Emerson 
affected to take it seriously, and once when the cat was 
in the library and scratched itself, he opened the door and 
politely said, " Goethe, you must retire ; I don t like your 
manners." 

I managed to make friends with the Concord children. Never 
had small town a more charming circle of lovely little ones. The 
children of Emerson, of Judge Rockwood Hoar, of the Loring 
and Barrett families, mostly girls between ten and twelve years, 
were all pretty and intelligent, and as it was vacation time they 
were prepared for walks, picnics, boating, etc. Other of their 
elders beside myself found delight in the society of these young 
people, especially Thoreau. He used to take us out on the river 
in his boat, and by his scientific talk guide us into the water- 
lilies Fairyland. He showed us his miracle of putting his hand 
into the water and bringing up a fish.* I remember Ellen 
Emerson asking her father, " Whom shall we invite to the 
picnic ? " his answer being " All children from six years to sixty." 
Then there were huckleberrying parties. These were under the 
guidance of Thoreau, because he alone knew the precise locality 
of every variety of the berry. I recall an occasion when little 
Edward Emerson, carrying a basket of fine huckleberries, had 
a fall and spilt them all. Great was his distress, and our offers 
of berries could not console him for the loss of those gathered 
by himself. But Thoreau came, put his arm around the troubled 
child, and explained to him that if the crop of huckleberries w r as 
to continue it was necessary that some should be scattered. 
Nature had provided that little boys should now and then stumble 
and sow the berries. " We shall have a grand lot of bushes and 

* The bream, which has the peculiarity of defending its spawn. Thoreau 
would find some spot where he could see the spawn, then place his hand 
beneath it. The bream placed itself over its spawn, and his fingers closed 
around it. 



134 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

berries on this spot, and we shall owe them to you." Edward 
began to smile. 

Not far from " Hillside " resided a lonely old man, with 
whom I exchanged greetings. Bereft of wife and children, he 
found consolation in " spiritualism." The Hunt ladies thought 
that he was suffering his cottage and garden to fall gradually 
into ruin because of his absorption in another world, and giving 
his money to a medium for bringing him communications from 
his wife and children. He was eager to convince me, and said 
that if I would visit Mrs. Freeman in Boston, and did not find 
something worth examining in this matter, he would not go 
there again. Whereupon I went off to Boston and Mrs. 
Freeman. 

Ushered into the mysterious presence, I found a substantial 
dark-eyed sibyl seated on a little throne. I was placed in a 
chair opposite by her husband, who, having made passes between 
us, left the room. Her eyes were closed, and she drew long 
breaths. Presently she cried, " Where shall I go with you 
to the spirit world or to some place on earth ? " I said, " Tell 
me about my home," for I knew that no one in Boston could 
know anything of my home in Falmouth or my personal affairs. 
This woman then went on to describe in a vague way my father s 
house, a description that would apply to many brick houses. 
She then mentioned several persons in the house and incidents 
I was sure were not true. I was so disgusted at the whole affair 
that I cut short the interview and went back triumphantly to 
my old friend at Concord. The old man went to see the medium, 
and she said that she found me so sceptical that the rapport was 
imperfect. The old man, however, fulfilled his contract. 

Mrs. Freeman had said, " I see a lady who is a good deal 
worried about somebody named John." The selection of a 
name so common rather amused me ; but I afterwards had to 
show my neighbour a letter from my mother saying that she was 
troubled by the betrothal of a relative named John.* 

* In later life Madame Renan, after the decease of her husband, told 
me that some intelligent ladies of their acquaintance once came to him 
with marvellous narratives of some incidents in seances in Paris. When 
he intimated incredulity one of the ladies said, " But your friend Madame 
B. told me that she saw it herself." " Ah," said Renan, " so few people 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 135 

From Agassiz I derived great benefit. When he rose before 
us in his class, a rosy flush on his face indicated his delight in 
communicating his knowledge. His shapely form, eager move 
ments (" his body thought "), large soft eyes, easy, unconscious 
gestures, and sonorous English, with just enough foreign accent 
to add piquancy, together made Agassiz the perfect lecturer. 
He was skilful, too, as a draughtsman, and often while speaking 
made a few marks on the blackboard which conveyed a complete 
impression of the thing elucidated. 

In the warmer months Agassiz used to take his class out into 
the country, there being no difficulty of finding in the neigh 
bourhood places of scientific interest. Several times we visited 
Nahant, and I can never forget the charm of our sitting there on 
the rocks while Agassiz pointed out on them the autographs of 
the glaciers recording their ancient itinerary. Or, standing on 
the top of some boulder, he would trace with his finger in the 
rocks far out in the sea the ancient outlines of the land ; or 
with some small fossil in his hand, or peculiar shell, he would 
track the progress of organic development. 

On one ramble at Nahant Agassiz devoted himself to the 
sea-serpent, which had twice been reported as seen off that coast. 
One of our class had unintentionally suggested the subject by 
mentioning the recent apparition, and smiling at it as a sailor s 
yarn. But Agassiz, in his always good-natured way, said that 
although there were no doubt exaggerations, it was not quite 
safe to ridicule the story. He then proceeded to give a summary 
of all the narratives about the alleged monster, with references 
to time and place that amazed us, as the subject was of casual 
suggestion. He described huge snake-like saurians of which 
some may have been amphibious or aquatic, and whose extinction 
might not be complete. 

One day in his lecture-room Agassiz displayed some new- 
fossils, mainly of saurians, which had just been added to his 
collection. They gave him a text for a general review of the 
morphological chain of reptilian life. As he proceeded, darting 

know how to see ! " Nearly these same words were said to me by Mrs. 
Sarah Ripley in the Old Manse in Concord. 

Emerson had little patience with " spiritualism," which he called " the 
rat-hole revelation." 



136 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

off at times to his blackboard, and comparing the extinct form 
with contemporary fauna, he became more and more animated, 
his face reddening with excitement, until at last he said : " Gen 
tlemen, I ask you to forgive me if to-day I end my lecture at 
this point, although the hour is not ort. I assure you that 
while I have been describing these extinct creatures they have 
taken on a sort of life ; they have been crawling and darting 
about me, I have heard their screaming and hissing, and am 
really exhausted. I regret it, gentlemen, but I trust that you 
will excuse me." 

Our admiration for the great teacher was such as to break 
through all rules, and we gave him a hearty cheer. He bowed 
low to us and quickly disappeared. 

The determined repudiation by Agassiz of the discovery of 
Darwin caused something like dismay in scientific circles through 
out Europe as well as in America. Concerning this I have some 
memories that may interest men of science. When I belonged 
to the class of Agassiz (1853-54), ne repeatedly referred to the 
hypothesis of continuous development of species in a way which 
has suggested to me a possibility that he may have had some 
private information of what was to come from Charles Darwin. 
In his Introduction (1859) Darwin speaks of having submitted a 
sketch of his work to Sir Charles Lyell and Sir Joseph Hooker, 
" the latter having seen my sketch of 1844." Either of these, 
or Darwin himself, might have consulted Agassiz. Most of us 
knew about such a theory only through the popular " Vestiges 
of Creation," to which he paid little attention. He seemed to 
have been excited by some German perhaps Schopenhauer, in 
whose works the idea of self-evolution in organic nature is poten 
tial of whom he spoke with a flush of anger when adding, 
t; He says himself that he is an atheist." At any rate, during 
1854 especially, his mind was much occupied with the subject. 
I also remember well that during this time he often dwelt upon 
what he called the " ideal connection " between the different 
forms of life, describing with drawings the embryonic changes ; 
in that progress appearing no unbridged chasm after the dawn 
of organic life. 

At the end of every week a portion of the afternoon was 
given for our putting questions to Agassiz, the occasion often 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 137 

giving rise to earnest discussion. These repeatedly raised the 
theory of development in " The Vestiges of Creation." Agassiz 
frequently referred to the spiritual evolution with which Emerson 
was particularly associated. But just after Darwin s discovery 
had appeared, I happened to be dining at the Saturday Club in 
Boston, when something like an encounter between these two 
friends occurred. Agassiz was seated at the head of the table, 
Emerson being on his right. It was near the end of the dinner, 
and around the long table those present were paired off in con 
versation ; but being next to Emerson I could enjoy the con 
versation he held with Agassiz. After a time the professor 
made some little fling at the new theory. Emerson said smilingly 
that on reading it he had at once expressed satisfaction at its con 
firmation of what he (Agassiz) had long been telling us. All of 
those beautiful harmonies of form throughout nature which he 
had so finely divined were now proved to be genuine relationship. 
" Yes," said Agassiz eagerly, " ideal relationship, connected 
thoughts of a Being acting with an intelligent purpose." Emer 
son, to whom the visible universe was all a manifestation of 
things ideal, said that the physical appeared to him one with 
the ideal development. Whereupon Agassiz exclaimed, " There 
I cannot agree with you," and changed the subject. 

There was at Concord a course of lectures every year, one of 
which was given by Agassiz. His coming was an important 
event. He was always a guest of the Emersons, where the 
literary people of the village were able to meet him. On one 
such occasion I remember listening to a curious conversation 
between Agassiz and A. Bronson Alcott, who lived and moved 
in a waking dream. After delighting Agassiz by repudiating the 
theory of the development of man from animals, he filled the 
professor with dismay by equally decrying the notion that God 
could ever have created ferocious and poisonous beasts. When 
Agassiz asked who could have created them, Alcott said they 
were the various forms of human sin. Man was the first being 
created. And the horrible creatures were originated by his 
lusts and animalisms. When Agassiz, bewildered, urged that 
geology proved that the animals existed before man, Alcott 
suggested that man might have originated them before his 
appearance in his present form. Agassiz having given a signal 



138 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

of distress, Emerson came to the rescue with some reconciling 
discourse on the development of life and thought, with which 
the professor had to be content, although there was a soup f on 
of Evolutionism in every word our host uttered. 

There was a good deal of suspicion in America that the refusal 
of Agassiz to accept Darwin s discovery was due to the influence 
of religious leaders in Boston, and particularly to that of his 
father-in-law, Thomas Carey, who had so freely devoted his 
wealth to the professor s researches. Some long intimacy with 
those families convinced me that there was no such influence 
exerted by the excellent Mr. Carey, but that the old Swiss pastor, 
Agassiz father, was surviving in him. He had, indeed, departed 
far from the paternal creed ; he repudiated all miracles at a time 
when Mr. Carey and other Unitarians upheld them tenaciously. 
He threw a bomb into the missionary camp by his assertion of 
racial diversity of origin. His utterances against Darwinism 
were evidently deistic, and had nothing whatever to do with any 
personal interest, except that he had a horror of being called an 
atheist. 

I say " deistic," for " theistic " denotes a more spiritual 
conception of deity than I can associate with Agassiz. He had 
adopted Humboldt s " Cosmos " idea, attached a dynamic deity 
to it, but did not appear to have any mystical or even reverential 
sentiment about nature, and pointed out humorously what he 
called nature s " jokes." I was sometimes invited to his house. 
He had by his first wife two beautiful daughters and the son 
(Alexander), now eminent. His wife and her sisters were ladies 
of finest culture and ability. Agassiz was a perfect character 
in his home life, and neighbourly also. Occasionally he would 
get together the young girls of Cambridge and guide them among 
the fossils, telling them all the wonders of the primeval world. 
Longfellow told me that Agassiz was entreating him to write 
a poem on the primeval world. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

Concerts and Theatres Mr. and Mrs. Jared Sparks The Longfellows 
J. R. Lowell Dr. Palfrey Rev. Dr. Andrews Norton The Ply 
mouth Rock Myth Theodore Parker Professor Convers Francis 
Professor G. R. Noyes The Unitarian Clergy Emerson at 
Divinity Hall His Influence on Students. 

THE three hundred dollars I carried to Cambridge, which would 
have been affluence in my Methodist circuit, swiftly diminished 
in value. Some half-starved tastes were awakened in me. I 
heard for the first time symphonies of Beethoven ; in Boston 
Museum Theatre I witnessed the inimitable comic acting of 
Warren ;* here were new kingdoms, but with ticket offices at 
their frontiers. 

The most momentous experience was the first opera. It was 
at the Howard Athenaeum, then the grand place, and I was 
invited by the Longfellows to a seat in their box. This first 
opera was " Somnambula " ; the second was the " Barber of 
Seville " ; but the third oh, the third ! It was dear Mrs. 
Sparks, wife of the historian, who invited me to " Don Gio 
vanni." She had never seen that opera, and I fear could not 
enjoy it because she had taken me (a sort of protege) to what she 
described to her husband on our return as a travesty of Byron s 
" Don Juan " and quite as immoral. A startling thing to me 
was the discovery in Mozart s melodies of several hymn-tunes. 
The charm of Sontag s singing the music, especially the minuet 
held me under a spell. I never got free from it, and to this day 
regard " Don Giovanni " as worth all other operas together. 

My love of concerts and theatres requiring economy, I joined 
four other impecunious divinity students in forming a vegetarian 
table. Our only married student, Fowler, and his wife were 

* I have never seen the equal of Warren as an artist in that line. 
With a facial expression and some slight movement such as turning 
around he could without a word convulse an audience. 



140 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

glad to help support themselves by supplying us in their house. 
There were half a dozen of us at table. Fowler was the only 
" spiritualist " in our college, and the rest of us represented 
rationalistic phases of faith, each in an individual way ; so our 
table did not lack spice. 

Jared Sparks, the historian, was president of Harvard College 
when I arrived, but soon resigned, and was succeeded by Rev. 
Dr. James Walker. Mr. Sparks had long given up his ministerial 
profession, to the great benefit of American history. I had been 
especially confided to his kindness by Drs. Burnap and Dewey, 
and was admitted to a sort of intimacy in his family. He 
remains in my memory among the most charming personalities 
I have known. Seated there in his library with his historical 
documents, he was the ideal scholar and statesman. His noble 
countenance had the candour and simplicity of a child, and though 
grave almost to melancholy, a sweet smile now and then played 
over his features, and his gentle voice was winning. In reflecting 
on my acquaintance with Jared Sparks I always remember what 
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes said to me some years before his 
death : " You and I have spent many of the best years of our 
lives merely clearing theological rubbish out of our paths." 
Because I was so occupied still in my twenty-first year I was dis 
abled from availing myself of my opportunities for gaining from 
the patriarch of American history the knowledge for which I 
had to search long in later life. I remember, however, that he 
repeated to me a suggestion of Thomas Paine to Jefferson, that 
Christ and his disciples were modelled on the sun and zodiac. 
Indeed, it was from Jared Sparks that I first learned that Thomas 
Paine was to be respected. 

Mrs. Sparks was a lady of culture and originality. She con 
tinued her evening receptions after her husband s presidency 
ceased, and in her house the best people were met. It was there 
that I met Arthur Hugh Clough, the English poet, charmed 
across the Atlantic by Emerson. His figure was unique as his 
poetry. Someone at the time told me that there had been some 
doubt as to the pronunciation of the name, and on his first 
appearance Mrs. Sparks had greeted him as Mr. " Clow." When 
he was taking leave she repeated this ; and Clough, after going 
to the door, returned and said to her in good humour but with 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 141 

emphasis, " Cluff, madam, Cluff ! " This handsome blonde 
Englishman often passed Divinity Hall on his way to visit the 
Nortons at " Shady Hill," just back of us, and he seemed to 
make more classic our pretty avenue. " The Bothie of Tober-na- 
Vuolich," lent me by Emerson, was touched with melancholy, 
but dough s face was always serene. 

Had I to describe the Cambridge I knew in a phrase, it would 
be as the Town of Beautiful Homes. I suppose my coming so 
far from my relatives, and my parting with Virginia for love of 
religious and political liberty, led some to invite me to their homes. 
Among these \vere the Longfellows. I find in my note-book : 
" March 13, 1853. Spent the evening with Longfellow ! O what 
an event ! I found him in every way worthy of his works, with 
a sweet and smiling family around him. A pleasant young 
English lady was there Miss Davies. Topics Modern Authors, 
Personalities of Boston, etc., and mainly of Virginia and Slavery, 
about which the English lady was anxious." This is a wretched 
little note about my introduction to Craigie House, and across 
all the years my memory is better. For I remember the grace 
and graciousness of Mrs. Longfellow, and thinking that she was 
the lady described by the poet in " Hyperion." She possessed 
a peculiar kind of beauty, which I think inspired the familiar 
engraving " Evangeline," and a most engaging expression of 
sincerity and of thoughtfulness for others. When anyone was 
conversing with her the intentness of her dark eyes, as if she 
listened with them, and the humility with which after a little 
silence she expressed an opinion always intelligent, never con 
ventional, impressed me that first evening. I longed for her 
friendship. She loved to walk on the large swards fronting 
Craigie House, and it was a picture to see this tall lady among 
her trees and flowers. She had much quiet humour, and I re 
member her quaint description of old Mrs. Craigie, from whom 
they purchased the house. Some had tried to persuade her 
to have her trees tarred to protect them from the caterpillars, 
which also invaded her neighbours. She refused to be so cruel 
to the caterpillars, saying " They are our fellow- worms." 

She was the poet s second wife, but the difference in their 
ages was compensated by his possessing the greater youthfulness 
of spirit. He was quick and vivacious in his movements, and 



142 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was even gay at times, though I never remember him laughing 
aloud. Her brother, Tom Appleton, a cosmopolitan wit, used 
often to pass his Sunday evenings at Craigie House, and I had a 
standing invitation to pass Sunday evening there. It was a 
delight to listen to Tom Appleton s talk, and I had often to 
indulge in my Virginian liability to loud laughter I and the 
children but Mrs. Longfellow only beamed her amusement, 
and the poet must have sympathetically caught her serene way. 

At that time Longfellow was the professor of poetry in Harvard 
College. Some of the professional students availed themselves of 
the general college studies, and I joined the classes of Agassiz 
in science, of Bernard Roelker in German, and of Longfellow. 
With the poet we went critically through Goethe s " Faust." It 
was charming to listen to Longfellow s reading. Even German 
became musical in his voice, and it was a fine experience to witness 
the simplicity and elevation with which he interpreted for us 
without prudery the whole human nature of the poem, as well 
as its frame of folk-lore and mythology. Longfellow s knowledge 
of folk-lore, antiquities, superstitions Scandinavian, English, 
German, French, Spanish, Italian, American (aboriginal) was 
universal, and had he not eclipsed his learning by the popularity 
of his poetry, he might have founded a chair for such studies. 

Longfellow s personality was potent among us. His modesty, 
his amiable man-to-man manners toward the young, the absence 
of airs or mannerisms, his transparent veracity of mind and re 
spect for all sincere opinions, were very engaging. He was 
universally beloved. I heard Lowell s address at the unveiling 
of Longfellow s bust in Westminster Abbey ; and although 
everyone present seemed to feel that the perfect word had been 
spoken, I felt that with all the elegance of the eulogy it did not 
perhaps none could convey the characteristics that made 
Longfellow s personality finer than his poems.* 

Now that I have mentioned Lowell, it may here be added 
that at the time he was generally known only by his " Biglow 
Papers " and his " Fable for Critics." They were unique in 

* Joseph Jefferson tells me that when dining with Robert Browning 
in London, 1877, the poet said Longfellow was as charming a gentleman 
as he had ever met. " Browning s enthusiasm for a man whose poetry 
was so remote from his own impressed me," said the actor. 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 143 

American literature, and genuine New England products. Meeting 
him in later years I received an impression that he did not like 
to be alluded to as " author of the Biglow Papers," but it is only 
his works written under that same inspiration that strike me as 
possessing originality. 

Mrs. Charles Lowell, his widowed sister-in-law, introduced me 
to Lowell, and he received me pleasantly ; but there was a certain 
provincialism about him which I suppose irritated my own 
Southern provincialism ; and perhaps both my lingering Metho 
dism and heretical enthusiasm prevented my getting very far 
with Lowell. Despite his long beard, pointed moustache, and 
wavy hair parted in the middle, in those days suggestive of 
foreign style, his look, accent, shrewdness, all recalled the 
" Yankee " conventionalised in Southern prejudice. Although 
this son of an eminent Unitarian minister had depicted so felici 
tously, in his " Fable for Critics," Emerson, Parker, and other 
leaders of thought, he did not seem to have any knowledge of 
their thoughts nor much interest in the great problems that filled 
the air with discussion. He took me with him to a beautiful 
pond near Cambridge, where we had a fine bath, and showed 
himself an admirable swimmer. 

I had enthusiasm for Robert Browning, but Lowell showed 
no interest in Browning, and shocked me by echoing the common 
places about his obscurity. " I own," he said, " a copy of Sor- 
dello, and anybody may have it who will put his hand upon his 
heart and say he understands it." " I have not read it," I 
replied, " but what is it about ? " Placing his hand over his 
heart, he answered, " I don t know." I presently read " Sor- 
dello," and found it obscure because of my ignorance of the epoch 
in Italian history with which it is interwoven, but there are 
enough clear and profound passages in the poem (so I thought) 
to excite something more than jest. 

Mr. Buckingham, the admirable editor to whom Lowell s 
" Biglow Papers " were addressed, was passing serene years in 
his pleasant home with his daughter, and he could not have 
better company than this bright and gracious young lady. 

At an edge of our Divinity Hall park resided Dr. John Gorham 
Palfrey. Formerly a Unitarian minister and a professor in our 
Divinity School, his interest in the anti-slavery cause had carried 



144 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

him into political life and into Congress. His radical attitude 
in Congress had cost him his seat, and he resumed his historical 
researches. Dr. Palfrey, still an active man though his children 
were grown was very attractive. He was an impressive 
speaker, a scholar with fine powers of conversation, and rather 
rationalistic. He had long set the anti-slavery cause above 
all theology. 

The largest homestead in Cambridge one may call it a park 
was " Shady Hill," belonging to the Norton family. The 
Rev. Dr. Andrews Norton resided there with his unmarried 
daughters Jane and Grace, and his son Charles Eliot Norton, 
now (1904) professor of fine arts in Harvard University. Dr. 
Norton had been the chief professor in the Divinity School, and 
wrote the text-book of conservative Unitarianism, namely, " The 
Evidences of Christianity." Being on the side of the enemy, I 
did not then appreciate the force and learning of this work. 

The venerable doctor was a favourite theme of legend in our 
college. He had the reputation of being very aristocratic. Some 
student invented a fable of the leading Unitarians entering heaven 
in a group, with characteristic remarks. Dr. Ware said, "It is 
better than we deserve " ; the elder Channing, " This is another 
proof of the dignity of human nature " ; Dr. Ezra Gannett, 
;< There must be some mistake," and hurries out ; Dr. Norton 
murmurs, " It is a very miscellaneous crowd." 

Perhaps this idea arose from the old gentleman s historic 
genealogy, his reputed wealth, elegant park, and the distinguished 
appearance of his children. His daughters were sometimes seen 
walking about their grounds, which adjoined our college park ; 
they were beautiful, and spoken of as " The Evidences of Chris 
tianity." Once when the two elder were preparing for a visit 
to Europe, Grace remaining with their father, Dr. Palfrey said 
to Dr. Norton, " Alas ! what will you do when the Evidences of 
Christianity leave you ? " " Ah, I will be saved by grace" 

Dr. Palfrey advised me to pay my respects to Dr. Norton, 
and gave me a note of introduction. I did so with trepidation, 
as he was believed to regard rationalism intolerantly. 

Browning s " old king sitting in the sun " came to my mind 
when I beheld this picturesque scholar in his library, with his 
halo of silken white hair, his classic features, his clear soft eye. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 145 

With my anti-slavery views, Dr. Palfrey s note may have made 
him acquainted ; but as most of the old Unitarians idolised 
Daniel Webster and opposed the abolitionists, I supposed that 
the " aristocratic " doctor was on that side too. To my surprise 
he said early in our conversation that the majority of the Wash 
ington politicians seemed to ignore not only the principles of 
freedom, but even all sense of honour. No compacts were 
respected and truth was disregarded. Those who refer to the 
history of the slave power at that time, and its steady corruption 
of Northern congressmen, will recognise the weight of Dr. Norton s 
words. I was charmed by the old scholar s candour. In speaking 
of " Transcendentalism " he made a remark to the effect that 
what to thinkers (I understood a reference to Emerson) were high 
ideas of individuality and self-reliance, tended to become in 
ordinary minds boundless self-conceit. 

When Professor Charles Norton was bravely denouncing in 
1898 the " inglorious war " which the United States was about 
to wage against helpless Spain, I gave an address in Boston, 
before the Free Religious Association, in which I related the 
above anecdote of his father. I afterwards received a letter 
from Professor Norton telling me that it had been the custom of 
his father in their family prayers to utter a special petition against 
the influence of Theodore Parker s unbelief. But one day he 
read a report of a sermon delivered by Parker in Boston on the 
betrayal of freedom by Webster, and from that time there was 
no more about Parker in the family prayers. 

When the elder Channing visited Europe he went to see 
Mrs. Hemans, whose poems were popular in America, in her 
home near Windermere. He spoke of her hymn on " The Landing 
of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England," and told her that he 
had heard it sung by a great multitude on the spot where the 
Pilgrims landed. But when, in answer to her questions, he was 
compelled to inform her that the coast described in her hymn as 
" stern and rock-bound " was without any rocks, she burst into 
tears. In my Southern home, where my mother used to sing that 
hymn, I too had nursed the heroic legend, and when I made my 
reverent pilgrimage to Plymouth Rock, a cruel disillusion awaited 
me. My friend Andrew Russell showed me near the low beach 
a small stone a yard or so long, and one slightly larger in front 
K 



146 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of Pilgrim Hall, the tradition being that the two together had 
made the original holy Rock. It was as mythical as the Holy 
Stone of Mecca. It was to be yet a good many years before I 
discovered the illusions investing the Pilgrims themselves. I 
credited them with great men around me, whom they would 
have banished or put to death. 

Admirers of Theodore Parker sometimes claimed that he 
was the typical flower out of the prickly Puritan stem. And 
after I had come to find that no opportunity of hearing him 
must be lost, there appeared to me some truth in this. When 
he sat in front of the great organ while the choir was singing, 
there was a certain severity about his thin lips, a sternness and 
pallor on his face and bald head, which suggested the aspect of 
the Puritan ; when he opened his lips his gentle voice wafted 
to us lilies and roses. 

In nearly every sermon of Parker there was some delicately 
humorous passage which sent a smile or even a ripple of laughter 
through his eager assembly, but it was only some great inhumanity 
or injustice that brought forth his sarcasm, and that raised no 
smile. 

Theodore Parker s rejection of miracles recorded in the Bible 
was not the result of sceptical tendencies but of critical studies. 
The last time I ever saw him was at Framingham, where the 
Anti-slavery Society met every summer in a grove. During an 
interval in the speaking I walked with him to the end of the 
grove, where we sat upon the grass. I was preparing a sermon 
on miracles, and noted some of his talk on that subject. He 
said it was difficult to define miracle. He recognised a sort of 
miracle-sense in man, who feeds that mystic part of him with 
legends and fables, as a man who cannot get bread will eat grass 
rather than starve ; but when man has grown so far as to find 
God in nature, and in the deep intuitions of his own heart,^the 
miraculous fables will be extinguished like rushlights under a 
dawn. 

While I loved Theodore Parker and honoured him as ^the 
standard-bearer of religious liberty, and derived instruction from 
his discourses, I received no important aid from his philosophy 
or his theology. Indeed, none of our class in the Divinity^School 
adopted " Parkerism," but we all felt and I suspect our pro- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 14; 

fessors felt that Parker was defending our right to enter on an 
unfettered ministry. We unanimously resolved to ask him to 
give the sermon at our graduation. When one or two of us 
conveyed to Parker this invitation, we were received in his 
library, where he sat at his desk. The conspicuous musket borne 
by his grandfather at Lexington was in curious contrast with 
the tenderness which this captain in a nobler revolution displayed 
for his antagonists. He was moved by our invitation, and after 
some moments of silence said, " I should rejoice to do it ; but 
the professors have already been embarrassed at the reputation 
of your class for radicalism, and this would embarrass them 
further ; get someone less notorious." After some discussion 
we took his advice, and the address was given by Rev. Dr. Furness, 
of Philadelphia. After us came a class which, without consulting 
Parker, invited him to deliver their address. The Faculty having 
refused consent, and the young men to elect another, the address 
that year was an eloquent silence. 

Parker really brought a sort of judgment day among the 
Unitarians, many of whom were not conscious of the extent to 
which they had deviated from the old standards. He told me 
that Dr. Convers Francis, our professor of ecclesiastical history, 
had visited him after his first heretical manifesto, and the follow 
ing colloquy took place : 

F. " I cannot go along with you, Parker." 

P. " What s the trouble ? " 

F. " Oh, you reject the supernatural in Christianity." 

P. "Do you believe in it ? " 

F. "Certainly." 

P. " Do you believe that the fish came up with a penny in its 
mouth ? " 

F. " Well no, not that." 

P. "Do you believe that a fig-tree withered because Jesus cursed 
it ? " 

F. " Certainly not." 

P. "Do you believe that a man was brought to life four days 
after his death ? " 

F. " I do not." 

P. " Will you please select some particular miracle in the New 
Testament which you do believe ? " 



148 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

F. " Oh, I accept the supernatural element." 
With that, said Parker, Dr. Francis went off. And how many 
preachers are in that condition ? 

Dr. Francis was a florid old gentleman, good-natured, tolerant, 
mystical, and, but for the extent to which his functions had 
wrapped him in bandages, might have been progressive. He 
was the brother of Mrs. Lydia Maria Child, whose " Progress of 
Religious Ideas " was perhaps the earliest attempt to gather 
together the spiritual expressions of all the races of mankind. 
We all liked Dr. Francis personally, and derived benefit from 
his encyclopaedic information about the Church and the Fathers, 
though he was not able to kindle this ancient coal with any 
present fire, so that we might receive light and warmth from it. 

Theodore Parker once said that he asked a friend from Cam 
bridge what was going on at the Divinity School, and the reply 
was, " One professor is milking the barren heifer and the other 
is holding the sieve." But in 1853-54 the case was by no means 
that. Professor George R. Noyes went through the Bible with 
a well-trained critical instinct, and delivered us from the fallacious 
method of interpreting scriptures to suit our preconceptions, 
either pious or rationalistic. His admirable translation of the 
Book of Job shows his mental veracity. My old " Student s 
Bible " is marked with notes of his instructions, and in later 
years, when knowledge is so much advanced beyond what it 
then was, I often find in them useful suggestions. The fear of 
giving a push to rationalism on the one hand, or to orthodoxy 
on the other, never made Dr. Noyes swerve from exact truth. 

One morning I entered the lecture-room a few moments late, 
and Dr. Noyes remarked, with a friendly smile, "It is said of 
a famous Virginian that he was remarkable for punctuality." 
As George Washington had never before been held up to me as 
an example in anything, I did not at the instant comprehend 
the allusion. The professor had a good deal of humour. He 
usually confined his wit to anecdotes, but once he repeated to 
us a conundrum recalled from early years : " What is the differ 
ence between Noah s Ark and a down-east coaster ? One was 
made of gopher wood, the other to go for wood ! " 

Dr. Noyes, while relentless in his " higher criticism," was 
conservative in temperament. There was a legend that once 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 149 

his patience with a pro-slavery administration broke down, and 
that in his chapel prayer he said, " May our rulers be endowed 
with that wisdom which they so much need" But in his class^ 
when dealing with some text relating to slavery, he reminded us 
of the fable of the competition between the Wind and the Sun 
to make the traveller take off his coat. He did not believe that 
any evil could be removed by denunciation, but he thought that 
any subject might be dealt with in the pulpit, if it was not in a 
pugnacious spirit. 

He also regarded the " Prohibitionists " as unwise, and 
trusted that we would as public teachers not only be temperate 
in eating and drinking, but also in our zeal for any reform. 

The school was in a fairly flourishing condition. It had in 
some years had very few students, and it was said that some old 
minister reported finding there only three seniors, adding, " One 
is a mystic, one a sceptic, the other a dyspeptic." But we had 
quite a number, and most of them youths of ability, also hard 
workers and full of earnestness. We held weekly discussions 
in our chapel, from which our professors were careful to be absent. 
The subjects were generally ethical, one of the most excited debates 
being on the proposed abstention of anti-slavery people from the 
products of slave labour. One maintained that we should use 
cotton and sugar to increase our health and strength for the 
combat against slavery. I gained from that debate the basis 
of a subsequent reply to an English society s suggestion of such 
abstention ; a mere economic victory over slavery would be 
akin to a military victory, and would do no good to the slave ; 
only a change of mind and heart in the owners would free the 
slaves. 

With the exception of Father Taylor, the orthodox pulpit 
had few men of much ability in Boston at that time. Phillips 
Brooks was as yet a Harvard undergraduate. In the absence of 
any adequate championship of orthodoxy it fell to certain Uni 
tarians to maintain scriptural authority and supernaturalism , 
and some of them were strong men. The typical old-fashioned 
Unitarian was Dr. Ezra Styles Gannett, whose fire and vigorous 
thought made him eloquent. He lived long enough to be the 
last of the able and learned believers inspired by Unitarian 
Christianity. The leading reactionnaire was the late Bishop 



150 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Frederick D. Hun ting ton, a handsome gentleman and accom 
plished preacher, but unable to deal with the positions of Parker 
and other Unitarian heretics. This inability did not arise from 
any lack of intellect or learning, but from his being then out of 
his place. 

These leaders in the defence of supernatural Christianity 
had their " school," which was vigilant over us of the Divinity 
School. My own enthusiasm for Emerson unexpectedly gave 
rise to an incident that caused excitement in the right wing. It 
was Emerson s custom to give one of the winter course of lectures 
in Concord, and having ascertained the date, I persuaded two 
students to join me in hiring a sleigh to take us out to Concord 
(twenty miles) and bring us back the same evening. One of 
the party was Henry Gardiner Denny, a law student. Loammi 
Goodenough Ware and myself were the only divinity students, 
and with all his sweet tolerance Ware was a right-wing Unitarian. 
The snow was deep and hard enough for perfect sleighing, the 
thermometer below zero, but our hearts were warm enough to 
make us forget the weather, until on reaching Concord Town 
Hall we found it closed. We drove to Emerson s house and 
learned that his lecture had been indefinitely postponed. Emerson 
was surprised and touched that young men should in such 
weather make a journey of forty miles, with the necessity of 
rising betimes next day, to listen to one of his lectures. He and 
his wife detained us with hospitality, gave us refreshments, and 
after listening to his conversation we went off with a sense of 
happiest disappointment. No public lecture could have equalled 
that evening with Emerson. 

But with his characteristic humility Emerson was unconscious 
of the riches his conversation had bestowed, and thought only 
of our disappointment at hearing no lecture after our ride on 
the snow. Consequently he wrote to me that if I could arrange 
an afternoon he would read a lecture in my room. The arrange 
ment was made and the lecture read. Of this incident I shall 
presently give further account, but first must relate that the 
incident speedily reached the Unitarians in Boston, accumulating 
on its way all manner of mythical additions, until when it came 
to the Gannett and Huntington circle it amounted to a dire and 
pregnant affair. Dr. Francis and Dr. Noyes called to ask me 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 151 

about it, and I gathered from them and others that it was 
reported that Emerson had now become a regular teacher in 
Divinity Hall, the students having organised a school within 
the school for the " Emersonian " cult. 

Emerson s paper was on Poetry ; it was read to us on a Satur 
day afternoon when no regular teaching was going on, and only 
two of the listeners were divinity students. Our professors 
w r ere perfectly satisfied by my narrative of the circumstances. 
But Mr. Huntington, with whom I also conversed, was convinced 
that the school was steeped in unbelief, resulting from a general 
" decline of moral earnestness." This is the one phrase I recall 
from the only conversation I ever had with him a brief conversa 
tion which for the rest certainly left on me an impression of his 
own moral earnestness, insomuch that I was not surprised to 
hear that he had abandoned Unitarianism, at heavy cost to his 
personal associations. 

When Emerson wrote me that he would read a lecture in 
my room, I concluded that it was an occasion of which I ought to 
make the most. My own room was too plainly furnished ; and 
I proposed to my friend Loammi Ware that the company should 
assemble in his room, the most elegant in Divinity Hall. There 
were present Mr. and Mrs. Longfellow, Arthur Hugh Clough, 
J. R. Lowell, Mrs. Charles Lowell, J. S. Dwight, Charles E. 
Norton and his sisters Jane and Grace, Frank B. Sanborn, L. G. 
Ware, Henry G. Denny, and the musical artist Otto Dresel. 
The impression on us was profound. It was a sort of epic that 
we should be gathered around this poet, who fulfilled before us 
one of the sentences he uttered, " In poetry we require the 
miracle." When Emerson finished there was deep silence- 
Presently Otto Dresel moved to the piano and performed several 
of Mendelssohn s " Songs without Words." Those were the 
only words possible.* 

* Emerson spoke of " the electric word pronounced by John Hunter 
arrested and progressive development." After Emerson s death I gave 
at the Royal Institution, London, a lecture on " Emerson and his Views 
of Nature " (February 9, 1883). While preparing that lecture I inquired 
of Professors Huxley, Tyndall, and Flower (then Hunterian lecturer) 
where I could find John Hunter s statement about " arrested and pro 
gressive development." Neither of these could find the reference, and 
indeed they were startled that Emerson should have discovered such an 



152 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Such was the memorable episode that became fabled among 
our anxious Boston elders, and excited such perturbation. 

Whether Dr. Huntington s words about the " decline of 
moral earnestness " referred particularly to our school or to the 
Unitarian body, I do not know. In either case he was mistaken. 
He could not have attended one of our weekly discussions in 
the chapel without perceiving that our moral earnestness was 
almost too intense. War, non-resistance, the methods of dealing 
with criminals, slavery, the rights and wrongs of woman, all 
questions relating to human life and society, were earnestly 
discussed, and excited more interest than debates on theological 
problems. And in all this the Divinity School indicated the 
advance in the Unitarian churches of a new moral life which could 
not be prevented from floating the ethical systems moulded in 
puritanical theology. 

At the time of which I write there existed in and around 
Boston a Unitarian clergy never surpassed for the eloquence 
adapted to cultured minds. There were ministers who were 
without much renown simply because of their number, who, 
had they been preaching in distant regions, would have been 
famous. 

Up to the middle of the century these fine spirits had felt 
touched to sufficiently fine issues in guarding their flocks against 
wolves of ancient superstition, cruel dogmas, and in encouraging 
domestic virtues and individual culture. And their success was 

anticipation of Natural Selection. I then explored Palmer s edition of 
Hunter s works (1835), and found in vol. i., p. 265, this footnote: "If 
we were capable of following the progress of increase of number of the 
parts of the most perfect animal, as they formed in succession, from 
the very first to its state of full perfection, we should probably be able 
to compare it to some of the incomplete animals themselves of every order 
of animals in creation, being at no stage different from some of those 
inferior orders ; or in other words, if we were to take a series of animals, 
from the more imperfect to the perfect, we should probably find an imper 
fect animal corresponding with some stage of the most perfect." It was, 
no doubt, this note which Emerson coined into a phrase of his own 
" arrested and progressive development." My conjecture is that Pro 
fessor Owen, who guided Emerson through the Hunterian Museum in 
1848, called his attention to Hunter s footnote, to which there is a refer 
ence in Owen s "Physiological Catalogue of the College of Surgeons * 
(vol. i., p. ii.). 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 153 

that in their churches were born competent leaders of men, 
able lawyers, judges, authors. But they failed to heed the 
warning voice of their great leader gone silent Channing 
that slavery was an intolerable wrong which would imperil 
the nation. 

In our Senior year we were nearly every Sunday preaching 
in some pulpit needing supply, and as in such places we were 
entertained by prominent Unitarian families, we acquired know 
ledge of the trend of things. I often filled the pulpits at Ply 
mouth, Fall River, New Bedford, Newburyport, Marblehead, also 
sometimes in Boston and its suburbs, and gained very distinct 
ideas on the characteristics of Unitarianism in its great days- 
As a rationalist I advocated changes ; and as a free thinker I 
still recognise that there was something offensive in the attention 
learned men were giving to ancient and remote times and places, 
and to metaphysics, when their own time and country were in 
sore need of every available fibre of strength. But long experi 
ence and historical studies have shown me another side of the 
situation. The Unitarians had inherited the old churches ; and 
the hard literature and tyranny of those old Calvinists were 
done away with in the only genuine way by evolution instead of 
revolution. The only security against reversion in human evolu 
tion is that some continuity shall be preserved with all that was 
humane in preceding forms or capable of a human interpretation. 
From time to time a question might be asked, and it was then 
time to answer it. To animate homes and towns with sweetness 
and light, to see after the charities, to encourage reading, cul 
ture, attention to health, elegance in social life, art, good taste, 
pretty amusements these made a sufficient task for every 
minister without his paying much attention to polemics. It was 
a fault, I think, in our teaching at Cambridge that it was not 
proved to us, and continually impressed on us, that a man might 
be both scholarly and self -truthful even though, like our dear 
old Professor Francis, he repudiated each particular miracle, 
while maintaining supernaturalism. If a preacher made a bold 
statement in one direction, we were apt to regard his conformity 
in others as hypocrisy ; yet we presently went out to our pastoral 
charges, and with whatever radicalism followed usages whose 
inconsistency with our principles was discovered only in later 



154 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

years. How long did I administer the sacrament after I had 
rejected every theory of atonement ! 

We would have been wiser if we had realised then, as we did 
later, that there was an Emerson in every leading preacher s 
breast. Frank Sanborn told me that Emerson and Henry Ward 
Beecher happened to meet at some hotel and were dining to 
gether. "Mr. Emerson," said Beecher, " do you think a man 
eating these meats could tell what grasses the animals fed on ? " 
" No," said Emerson. " I m glad to hear it," said Beecher, " for 
I ve been feeding on you a long time, and I m glad my people 
don t know it." 

A disposition for work was hereditary in me. Even in the 
cold northern climate I must rise early, and in that way managed 
to read many excellent books. My habit of pastoral work on 
my Methodist circuit caused me to welcome an invitation from 
Charles Norton to unite in a night school which he had started 
at Cambridgeport, where many poor resided. It profoundly 
moved me to see a room crowded with grown-up people learning 
the rudiments of knowledge like children. This was what I had 
longed for among the poor whites of Virginia, but I had at last 
reached agreement with Horace Greeley s comment on my effort; 
the poor whites of Virginia could never be educated until 
the slaves were free. 

After all, the conservative ministers were not quite wrong in 
their apprehension that Emerson had become a teacher at the 
Divinity School ; only it would have been more exact to say, 
in the whole college. Charles Norton, Sanborn, Eliot, Horace 
Furness to name those of whom I knew something were really 
children of Emerson, perhaps more truly than some of us who 
found him an especially religious inspirer. In later years I have 
met with men who listened to Emerson with enthusiasm, and 
found that, like myself, they had lost the old faith and the hopes 
for mankind which animated us in those years. But love of 
Emerson never perished in any heart that knew him ; the feeling 
towards him had really little to do with visions and ideals raised 
in us, but was something not to be analysed or described. For 
myself I may say that even his playful remarks planted some 
seed in my mind. " What, sonny ? Your mother says you are 
not well to-day. Now what naughty things have you been 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 155 

doing, for when anyone is sick something the devil is the matter ! " 
Out of that merry and caressing bit of humour grew in my ministry 
the sermons on health which I condensed into an article in 
my Dial on "The Moral Diagnosis of Disease." During my 
whole ministry I tried to live up to the art of negation illustrated 
in Emerson s reply to a lady when I was present. " Was not 
Christ sinless ? " asked the pious lady. Emerson said, " The 
knowledge of good and evil through experience is an essential 
condition of intelligence, and that wisdom can hardly be denied 
to Jesus." The broken seed-shell of dogma could not be mourned 
when out of it sprang a fragrant flower. Of course, we who went 
out as public teachers had not before us always the taught and 
sympathetic listeners that surrounded Emerson ; I have had 
to defend my beliefs and disbeliefs in controversies, but after 
every one of them I have felt the truth which Emerson wrote in 
a letter (1838) shown me by a lady in Cincinnati : " I do not gladly 
utter any deep conviction of the soul in any company where I 
think it will be contested no, nor unless I think it will be welcome. 
Truth has already ceased to be itself if polemically said." 

On one occasion Mrs. Emerson was speaking of the need she 
felt of belief in something supernatural. Emerson said gently : 
" Isn t it enough, Queeny, to look into the eyes of your child ? " 

" It does not appear necessary," he once hinted to me, " when 
a child is enjoying a spectacle to explain that the good fairy s 
gems are all glass." 

One thing Emerson said to me when about to enter on my 
new ministry, I did not forget ae/ dpLo-reveiv. However little 
my best may be, I have found the deepest satisfaction of heart 
and mind is not in the achievement, not in the event never 
ideal but in doing one s very best. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Divinity School Anthony Burns, the Fugitive Slave Rufus Choate 
Miss Davenport s " Colombe " Mother of Margaret Fuller 
Sylvester Judd Peripatetic Preaching Miss Upham s Boarders 
My Experience as Proctor A Curious Theft Our Spiritualist 
Classmate Brings Trouble Anti-slavery Gathering at Framingham, 
July 4, 1854 " So journer Truth " Thoreau s Speech Garrison 
Burns the Constitution. 

OUR Fredericksburg and Falmouth community was too small 
for any youth to fly off from the old paths without exciting 
attention. There was a good deal of talk, and inquiries were 
made about Unitarianism. Several citizens of Fredericksburg 
avowed unorthodox views, and the effect of my aberration was 
not entirely unfavourable to me. 

Of course my old friends, the Methodists, had to face the 
question whether I was to be damned or not because of my 
unbelief. The most touching thing to me was that my dear 
mother searched her Bible with reference to my case, and found 
it clear that final salvation would come even to Leviathan : " He 
shall make peace with me." If that " crooked serpent " must 
be saved her crooked son was safe ! I think indeed that in my 
absence I did something towards bringing other relatives over 
to grandfather s Universalism. 

My Quaker friend William Henry Farquhar came all the 
way from Sandy Spring to visit me at Cambridge. The visit 
was pleasant, but he discovered that I was living on vegetables. 
On his return he wrote to my sister that he feared I was insuffi 
ciently nourished. This caused a panic in the Falmouth house 
hold, and my father forgot his scruples about supporting me in a 
Unitarian school. His offer of assistance was affectionately 
acknowledged by me, but declined with the assurance that I 
had never been in want. I had indeed economised, because I 
wished to spend my money for concerts, etc., but even that 
need of economy was now passed, as I had entered on my Senior 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 157 

year, when students are allowed to fill pulpits. I was getting 
fifteen or twenty dollars every Sunday, and was boarding at the 
best table in Cambridge. 

But just then an event occurred which held momentous 
results for me. In May, 1854, the fugitive slave Anthony Burns 
was arrested in Boston, and the city thrown into excitement. 
Anthony was from our county, and about twenty. His owner, 
Captain Suttle, and William Brent, both well known to me, had 
come to Boston, and Burns was discovered. The city swarmed 
with an angry multitude ; but the new Fugitive Slave Law was 
now in force, and the President ordered a regiment to suppress any 
attempt at rescue. Around the courthouse w r ere stretched chains 
under which the judges and lawyers had to bend on entering. 

The Southern students at Cambridge assembled to offer 
their sympathy to the owner of Burns. I was notified, but 
replied that my sympathies were with the fugitive. 

On the Sunday after the arrest I was in the vast congregation 
of Theodore Parker. A notice had been sent to all the churches 
asking their prayers that the fugitive might be delivered. Parker 
began his services by reading this notice, then quietly laid it 
aside with the remark, " I have no intention of asking God to 
do our work." His prayer was for moral courage in the people 
and not for the fugitive s rescue. His sermon came as if from 
his cherished heirloom, his grandfather s musket in the Revo 
lution. The next morning I tried to get into the court-room, 
but without success, and walked towards the gaol, and from 
across the street observed the crowd. Near me I remarked 
Dr. O. W. Holmes, similarly engaged. The larger number held 
heavy sticks and appeared to be of the pro-slavery mob. I 
returned quietly to Cambridge, and next morning saw in the 
papers that there had been an attempt at rescue in which a 
marshal was killed. Hastening to Boston I met Wendell Phillips 
in the street, and went with him to Tremont Temple, where a 
small number of anti-slavery leaders had gathered. Among 
them sat Wentworth Higginson, holding part of his cloak over 
his mouth. He had been wounded by a cutlass on his lip and 
on his neck. Parker spoke briefly ; he was not willing, he 
said, to advise a risk he would not share, and regarded the slave s 
fate as decided. 



158 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The personal fate of Tony was ultimately determined by 
the sum raised to purchase him. I was told that Captain Suttle 
was ready to sell him at once, but the district attorney, Hallett, 
determined that the dignity of the United States required the 
return of Burns to Virginia. Guarded by United States soldiers, 
Suttle and Brent marched with the fettered fugitive through 
streets draped in black, in one beneath a great flag turned upside 
down, to which was suspended a coffin inscribed, " The Death of 
Liberty." 

On the day before this scene, as I left Tremont Temple, where 
I was a silent listener, I was approached by three or four men 
whom I had never seen, one of whom said, " I am told that you 
are acquainted with the two slaveholders." " Yes." " Can you 
not call on them and find out the number of their room in the 
Revere House ? " " No," I answered, shuddering at the sug 
gestion, and passed on. 

Nothing could be easier than to send my card to those two 
men who had known me from childhood ; had I been capable of 
the treachery their victory might not have been so complete. 
Had William Brent, a connection of our family, known this inci 
dent, and that it had lain in my hands to endanger him and 
Suttle, this famous case might not have had such serious conse 
quences to my humble self. 

Although anti-slavery in sentiment, I was not connected 
with any party, and resented the indiscriminate denunciation 
of slaveholders. On the other hand, I was at times embar 
rassed by being addressed by the " compromisers," as if being a 
Virginian I was pro-slavery. But this feeling was at the mercy 
of any engaging personality. Thus I was captivated by the 
genius of Rufus Choate. I heard several speeches from him in 
the law courts, and was thrilled by his power. Then I made 
the acquaintance of his daughters, through our common enthusi 
asm for music, for by this time I had become a frequent contributor 
to Dwight s Journal of Music, and one of Rufus Choate s daugh 
ters Mrs. Helen Bell, not only beautiful and witty, but wonderful 
at the piano used to invite me at times to her father s house. 
I was introduced to her by Miss Abby Adams, to whom Emerson 
confided me, and who had real genius for music. To the choice 
concerts of the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, or of Otto Dresel, I 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 159 

at times accompanied these ladies, and now and then met Rufus 
Choate. Never was man more charming in his family. There 
was often a play of wits between him and his daughters. He had 
no taste for music, and I was told that when his daughters once 
persuaded him to go to the opera, he looked at the libretto 
helplessly, and said, " Helen, expound to me this record, lest I 
dilate with the wrong emotion ! " No, there was no resisting 
Rufus Choate. 

We had a story at Divinity Hall that in the course of a speech 
against the introduction of the slavery question into the pulpit, 
Rufus Choate exclaimed, " I go to my pew as I go to my bed 
for repose ! " 

Mrs. Bell was, I think, one of the circle, then small, that loved 
Robert Browning s poetry. She was the friend of Mr. and Mrs. 
James T. Fields, whose house was the literary salon in Boston, 
and who personally knew the Brownings. To our amazement 
and delight, Miss Davenport (afterwards wife of General Lander), 
who had been charming people of fine taste during an engagement 
at the Howard Athenaeum, announced for her benefit night 
Browning s " Colombe s Birthday." We could hardly believe 
our senses. I rushed about to tell the news to the Longfellows, 
Palfreys, Mrs. Sparks, and persuaded some students to go, 
despite their protests that they could not understand Browning. 
There was thus a good contingent from Cambridge. The play 
was admirably acted. In after years, when my wife was the 
intimate friend of Mrs. Lander, this lady told us that it required 
all her courage, against theatrical advisers, to present that play ; 
it was because she so loved it. Finding that she had a sympa 
thetic Valence to support her, she and he toiled until they had 
drilled the other characters. The students who had complained 
of Browning s " obscurity " now discovered that he was clear 
enough when action accompanied the word. But Jennison told 
me that when he applauded a certain passage a bewildered man 
in front of him turned round to look at him, and exclaimed 
" Good God ! " 

It was " Pippa Passes " that first attracted me to Browning, 
and I mentioned Pippa as a type of unconscious influence in 
some sermon. But when, in 1854, I presented Browning s works 
to my sister (in her seventeenth year), probably recommending 



160 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Pippa, my mother was disturbed by it, the episode of Sebald 
and Ottima being too passionate for young people to read. 

It was always a sad reflection that I could never meet Mar 
garet Fuller. Some of her writings, together with the memoirs 
written by her friends perfect monument of a beautiful soul- 
had been to me, on my Methodist circuit, as that manna which 
" had the taste of all in it." Her mother resided at Cambridge- 
port with her son Arthur, a Unitarian preacher (killed while 
chaplain in the Union army near Fredericksburg). With no 
introduction except my feeling about Margaret, I was received 
by her mother with warm welcome. She told me much about 
Margaret, and said that while she appreciated most highly the 
" Memoirs," she was astonished that Margaret should be spoken 
of as plain. With much naivete she said, " I always regarded 
Margaret as beautiful ! " This tribute from the mother con 
firmed what I had heard from others, that the woman of such 
fine brain had recognised the mystical beauty of home experiences 
and affections. "If we only knew how to look around us we 
should not need to look above." Had no other pearl fallen from 
Margaret s lips, these words alone would be a talisman of life. 

In those days I read with enthusiasm the works of Sylvester 
Judd, the minister who had so charmed me at Baltimore when I 
was leaving Methodism without knowing whither I was bound. 
He was my pastor, though I never heard him preach nor touched 
his hand. In his marvellous story " Margaret," the whole spiritual 
history of New England was revealed to me, and I mourned 
with his flock in Augusta at his premature death. In after-life 
I discovered that Margaret Fuller was the first to recognise a 
kindred spirit in Hawthorne ; on seeing in " The Token " (1832) 
his tale, " The Gentle Boy," she had sent him or rather her, 
for she supposed the writer a woman a grateful message. She 
also knew the fine soul of Judd.* 

* Alexander Ireland gave me a copy of a letter written to him by 
Margaret Fuller from London, October 6, 1846, in which she says: 

" I am much pleased to have your feeling of Margaret. As you say> 
there are such things in real life, yet I fancy the picture, like that of an 
antique Venus, was painted from study of several models. The writer, 
Sylvester Judd (a name as truly American in its style as that of one of 
his own invention Beulah Ann Orff], is a man approaching middle age, 
who has hitherto only made himself remarked by one or two strokes oi 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 161 

My Senior year was happy. There were vacant pulpits to 
be supplied in many surrounding towns ; I was employed every 
Sunday, expanding my old Methodist sermons with the liberal 
leaven, at each place entertained by the best families, and making 
friendships cherished through life. At Plymouth, for instance, 
I always stayed at the house of Andrew Russell, an excellent 
type of the politically " vertebrate " New Englander. It was 
with a sense of glory well remembered that I preached my 
first Thanksgiving Day sermon in the old Plymouth church, 
and summoned the helpless Pilgrims as a cloud of witnesses to 
ideas for which they would have banished me. 

At Miss Upham s table I made acquaintance with students 
of other professional schools, among these, the brothers William 
and Joseph Choate. They were affable young gentlemen, and 
one could have predicted their eminence. I thought Joseph 
Choate (now ambassador in England) the handsomest youth 
in college. 

During my senior year I was appointed proctor of Divinity 
Hall. 

The passage through Congress of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill 
(May 30, 1854), repealing the " Missouri Compromise," made a 
casus belli between slavery and freedom, and this was almost 
simultaneous with the triumphant parade through Boston of 
the slave-hunters carrying Anthony Burns back into slavery. 
Someone who had spoken with Burns in prison told me he was 
much frightened and preferred returning quietly rather than have 
any attempt at rescue. With my abhorrence of violence I con 
sidered him right, but all the more felt that the time had come 
for vehement utterance. The anti-slavery leader, Garrison, was 
a non-resistant, but the possession of every branch of the govern- 

character, of a kind noble and original. I have never seen him, but some 
years ago received from him this message, that he wished me to know I 
had one admirer in the State of Maine a distinction of which I am not 
a little proud, now that I have read his book. He is a clergyman, but it 
seems has not for that forgot to be a man. Time allows me now to say no 
more except that I am ever, dear sir, in friendly heart and faith yours. 
I should be much interested at any time to know what any or all of you 
are doing for the good of others and your own, what feeling, what hoping. 
To the new fraternity I think we belong, where glory is service, whose 
motto Excelsior." 



1 62 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ment by the slave power, and its domination over all the State 
laws protecting personal liberty, mingled with the moral issue 
the patriotic sentiment of independence which had confronted 
George III. The young Unitarian minister at Worcester, Went- 
worth Higginson, was eloquent though always calm, and his 
wound received in the attempted rescue of Anthony Burns was 
also eloquent. The impending struggle for freedom in Kansas 
was revealing the weakness of the non-resistant wing of the 
Anti-slavery Society. On July 4, 1854, the annual gathering of 
the abolitionists in Framingham Grove occurred. As a studious 
observer of the movement that so deeply concerned me personally, 
I attended. My brief speech was a plea for peaceful separation 
of North and South after the manner of Abraham and Lot. I 
dreaded the angry passions rising on both sides more than slavery. 

There were several striking incidents at this Framingham 
gathering. 

A very aged negro woman named " Sojourner Truth," lank, 
shrivelled, but picturesque, slowly mounted to the platform, 
amid general applause, and sat silently listening to the speeches. 
After some stormy speaker a young Southerner rose in the audi 
ence and began to talk fiercely. There were cries of " Platform," 
and Garrison, who presided, invited the youth to come up and 
speak freely. The young man complied, and in the course of his 
defence of slavery and affirming his sincerity, twice exclaimed, 
" As God is my witness ! " " Young man," cried Sojourner 
Truth, " I don t believe God Almighty ever hearn tell of you ! " 
Her shrill voice sounded through the grove like a bugle ; shouts 
of laughter responded, and the poor Southerner could not recover 
from that only interruption. 

Thoreau had come all the way from Concord for this meeting. 
It was a rare thing for him to attend any meeting outside of 
Concord, and though he sometimes lectured in the Lyceum there, 
he had probably never spoken on a platform. He was now clam 
oured for, and made a brief and quaint speech. He began with 
the simple words, " You have my sympathy ; it is all I have to 
give you, but you may find it important to you." It was im 
possible to associate egotism with Thoreau ; we all felt that the 
time and trouble he had taken at that crisis to proclaim his 
sympathy with the " Disunionists " was indeed important. He 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 163 

was there a representative of Concord, of science and letters, 
which could not quietly pursue their tasks while slavery was 
trampling down the rights of mankind. Alluding to the Boston 
commissioner who had surrendered Anthony Burns, Edward G. 
Loring, Thoreau said, " The fugitive s case was already decided 
by God not Edward G. God, but simple God." This was said 
with such serene unconsciousness of anything shocking in it 
that we were but mildly startled. 

William Lloyd Garrison made that July 4 a Judgment Day. 
He read the Declaration of Independence ; then contrasted its 
principles with the Fugitive Slave Law, the judgment of Loring 
surrendering Anthony Burns, and a charge of United States 
Judge Curtis on the " treasonable " attempt to rescue Burns. 
Lighting matches, he burned successively these documents, after 
each crying, " And let all the people say Amen ! " The Amens 
were loudly given, but at last Garrison uplifted a copy of the 
Constitution of the United States, and read its compromises 
with slavery and the slave trade ; he then declared it the source 
of all the other atrocities, the original " covenant with death 
and agreement with hell," and held it up burning until the last 
ash must have singed his fingers. " So perish all compromises 
with tyranny ! " he cried, " and let all the people say, Amen ! " 
There were mingled " Amens " and hisses, and some voices of 
protest ; but there stood the adamantine judge parting to right 
and left the leaders of the people, constitutionalists, free-soilers, 
and abolitionists. 

That day I distinctly recognised that the ant i- slavery cause 
was a religion ; that Garrison was a successor of the inspired 
axe-bearers John the Baptiser, Luther, Wesley, George Fox. 
But as I could not work with Lutheran, Methodist, or Quaker, 
I could not join the Anti-slavery Society. There was a Calvinistic 
accent in that creed about the " covenant with death and agree 
ment with hell." Slavery was not death, nor the South hell. 
I did not care about the Constitution, and my peace principles 
inclined me to a separation between sections that hated each 
other. Yet I knew good people on both sides. I also believed 
that slavery was to be abolished by the union of all hearts and 
minds opposed to it those who believed emancipation potential 
in the Constitution, as well as the Constitution-burners. 



1 64 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

I had some conversation with Rev. Samuel J. May on this 
subject, and I think it was during the interval for luncheon at 
the Framingham meeting for I remember his saying to a 
Southerner probably the one rebuked by Sojourner Truth 
who declared himself sincere, " I am afraid you are." However 
that may be, I remember my friend May a sweet spirit as well 
as an impressive preacher saying that Garrison s vehemence 
was not against the Southerners, but the Northern allies of 
slavery. " I remember," said May, " being with him at a 
meeting, and saying, Mr. Garrison, you are too excited you 
are on fire ! Garrison answered, I have need to be on fire, 
for I have icebergs around me to melt ! 

The anti-slavery families out there in the Framingham 
Grove treated me almost affectionately, inviting me to their 
luncheons, spread on the grass, because I was a Virginian ; but 
I was, in truth, almost as lonely as the Carolinian humiliated by 
Sojourner Truth. Did that old African Fate tell the truth 
about me also ? Did God know anything about me, a Virginian, 
with a strange burden every day getting heavier ? 

Ah, yes ! I went back to Boston and found a letter from 
the Unitarian church at Washington, inviting me to preach for 
them during September, and intimating that a permanent 
minister was needed there. The way then was opening before 
me ! 



CHAPTER XV. 

First Sermons at Washington Letter from my Father Settlement at 
Washington Preaching at Richmond, Va. Expelled from Fal- 
mouth for Abolitionism Preaching at Charlottesville, Va. 
Letters from Rev. Dr. Burnap Installation at Washington 
Polemic about a Fast Day Antecedents of the Washington 
Church Its Eminent Members Chief Justice Cranch Helen 
Hunt President Pierce. 

THERE was but one cloud on my horizon. Slavery existed in 
the District of Columbia ; I would have to deal with that subject ; 
and as I was a Virginian connected with families well known in 
Washington, the church would have to be informed of my anti- 
slavery sentiments. 

My anxiety for the situation induced me to speak about 
slavery in my very first sermon at Washington (September 10, 
1854) :- 

And as now we look forth on the world of humanity, arid, remem 
bering the burdens of old prophets who sang of the latter-day glory, 
and the saying concerning Christ, that " he saw of the travail of his 
soul, and was satisfied," so fair and perfect even to that perfect soul 
was the vision of the advancing world see it now frozen by a dread 
winter of evil ; see man s hand lifted against man in war ; see trade 
polluted by dishonesty, so that what we eat and wear is poisoned 
and stained with crime ; see man enslaved by man, until we scarce 
know in their degradation those brothers of Christ, to whom we are 
anything but brothers save for the well-known human cry which 
they ever send up appealing to heaven Oh, as we remember this, 
see this, your worldly doctrine of calmness changes us to marble ! 

On September 17 (text, " Am I my brother s keeper ? ") I 
again introduced the subject. 

I was then about to visit my parents at Falmouth, but in 
answer to my note on the subject I received from my father the 
subjoined letter, dated at Falmouth, September 18, 1854 : 

I cannot refrain from saying I was truly glad you did not find 
it convenient to come down to-day. ... I have reason to know 



1 66 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

that it was fortunate for you that such was the case, and it is my 
sincere advice to you not to come here until there is reason to believe 
your opinions have undergone material changes on the subject of 
slavery. If you are willing to expose your own person recklessly, 
I am not willing to subject myself and family to the hazards of such a 
visit. Those opinions give me more uneasiness just now than your 
horrible views on the subject of religion, bad as these are. 

You say in your last it is strange that you " meet with intoler 
ance nowhere but at home." If you had but a small amount of 
that best of all sense common sense it would not seem at all 
strange that such should be the fact. I should treat all young men 
similarly situated just as you are treated by others but their parents 
and best friends would probably do towards them just as your parents 
and friends do towards you. A single moment s reflection would 
teach any common-sense person the reasonable propriety of our 
course. But having exhausted all our rational effort, we hand you 
over to the mercy of God, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus 
Christ, and pray most earnestly that the ever-blessed Spirit may 
guide you aright. If you make shipwreck in this life and the next, 
you must not only wade through the precious blood of Christ and 
do despite to the Spirit of His grace ; but your father s prayers, so 
long as his life lasts, will be thrown in the way also. 

This letter had deep affection in it, and grieved me less than 
it puzzled me. I had not made public any opinions concerning 
slavery except in my two sermons at Washington ; there had 
been no report of those utterances ; and I was entirely ignorant 
of the rumours (referred to in the previous chapter) mixing me 
up in the fugitive slave case in Boston. My sister tells me that 
it was even said I had been summoned as a witness against the 
owner of Anthony Burns. I made no reply to my father s 
letter, and went on with my sermons. 

On October 29, when by announcement the church was to 
meet after the morning services to elect a minister, I felt impelled 
to be perfectly explicit with the congregation, which I knew 
would all be present. My text was, " Thy kingdom come," 
and in the discourse I said : 

Solomon said, " There is nothing new under the sun " ; a greater 
than Solomon said, " I create all things new." And his church, if 
true to his Spirit, will feel that it is an aggressive thing ; that his 
kingdom, though not of this world, is in it ; that it must penetrate 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 16; 

and redeem all institutions, and change the world. The church 
must thus hold itself ready to pass free judgment on all customs, 
fashions, ideas, facts ; on trade and politics and, in this country, 
more especially hold itself ready to give free utterance in relation 
to our special national sin the greatest of all sins human slavery. 

Within fifteen minutes from the utterance of that sentiment 
I was elected minister, with but two contrary votes. This gave 
me confidence and happiness. I knew what my people could 
bear, and had no fear of trouble. My salary was ample for a 
young bachelor of those days. My friends found for me a pleasant 
suite of rooms where I could entertain friends. 

That a congregation at the national capital, containing in it 
such men as Chief Justice Cranch, Mayor Seaton, Joseph Gales, 
and other eminent citizens well known in Virginia, had settled 
me as their minister produced its impression on my relatives. 
The Intelligencer s reports of my sermons were talked of in 
Fredericksburg, and my father began to feel that there were no 
longer grounds for the apprehensions expressed in his letter of 
September 18. At the close of November I received a cheerful 
letter from him and a letter from my mother begging me to 
visit Falmouth. About the same time numerous letters from 
friends and relatives in Fredericksburg and Richmond urged me 
to visit them. Several Unitarians turned up unexpectedly in 
Fredericksburg, who said they could get the town hall if I would 
preach there. This I declined for my father s sake, but I could 
not resist an invitation to preach in Richmond, Va., and gave 
in the long-silent Universalist church there two discourses on 
the Sunday of January 21, 1855. 

After an altogether pleasant stay of several days in the 
house of my uncle, Hon. Raleigh Travers Daniel, no word being 
said about slavery and no reproach heard for my heresy, this 
dear uncle accompanied me to both sermons. He said he feared 
that Unitarianism tended to cultivate the head more than the 
heart, which was a good hint to me ; I had been invited to Rich 
mond to expound unorthodox views, but I ought to have revealed 
the heart in them. I went up with a light heart to my dear old 
home in Falmouth. I was affectionately received by my parents, 
and all seemed about to go smoothly. But at night when I 
was returning home from some visit I was twice spoken to by 



168 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

negroes, who whispered that my opposition to slavery and my 
course about Tony Burns were known among the coloured people 
there, and they hinted expectations that I was contemplating 
some movement. I was shocked by this revelation, and of course 
disclaimed any such intention. 

But worse was to come. Next morning as I was walking 
through the main street a number of young men, some of them 
former schoolmates, hailed me and surrounded me ; they told 
me that my presence in Falmouth could not be tolerated. " Charles 
Frank Suttle," said one, " says that when he was in Boston you 
did everything you could against him to prevent his getting 
back his servant Tony Burns, and that you are an abolitionist. 
There is danger to have that kind of man among our servants, 
and you must leave. We don t want to have any row." By 
this time a number of the rougher sort had crowded up and there 
were threats. Then a friendlier voice said that on account of 
their respect for my parents and family they wished to avoid 
violence, and hoped that I would leave without such trouble. 

There was, I think, little danger of violence to myself. My 
parents, brothers, and other relatives constituted a large part 
of the little town, and whatever their disagreements from me 
would have seriously resented any injury. Yet I could not but 
recognise that if only on their account it was my duty to leave 
the place ; I had no right to entangle them in quarrels. More 
over, the secret approaches of the negroes on the previous evening 
suggested that there might indeed be some danger, caused by 
the silly gossip of the whites. I therefore said to the crowd 
that I did nothing against Colonel Suttle and William Brent 
beyond expressing to students who wished me to sympathise 
with them my lack of sympathy ; but as there were rumours of 
the kind and I had no desire to cause disturbance, I would leave 
next day. 

Of this incident I said not a word at home. It cut short 
my visit by two days only, and no special explanation was 
needed of my quick return to Washington, where I had to preach 
the following Sunday. There appeared no reason to the family 
why there should be any distress about parting now that I was 
living so near, but to me it was a heavy moment when I left 
them. It was exile. As I was driven by our faithful coachman, 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 169 

James Parker, across the bridge and along the meadows, it was 
with a feeling that I should never see them again. 

At the first station after leaving Fredericksburg the train 
was entered by my father s eldest brother, Dr. Valentine Conway 
of Stafford. He had always been fond of me, but had no doubt 
heard Colonel Suttle s story, and spoke to me bitterly. I did 
not tell him that I was that day banished from my own home 
and relatives, but made what answer I could.* 

Uncle Valentine parted from me at Aquia Creek, where at 
that time a steamboat continued the route to Washington. I 
sat on the deck humiliated and weeping. I was just in my 
twenty-third year, and there was now brought home to me 
the terrible fact that the tyranny of slavery crushed not only 
the negroes, but the most loving hearts of all. I afterwards 
discovered that many good women, my mother among them, 
secretly cherished a hatred of slavery, and that many men had 
misgivings about the institution. They were compelled by a 
sort of reign of terror to sacrifice before the idol all expression of 
generous affections this terror being caused by the gathering 
anti-slavery cloud in the north. 

In after years I could of course make a hundred excuses for 
those young people who ordered me out out of Virginia. I was 
the first and only anti-slavery man they had ever met, and I 
came just after the adventures of their neighbours Suttle and 
Brent in recovering Tony Burns had brought home to the little 
town some realisation of Northern antagonism to slavery. 

Martyrdom is as demoralising to the martyr as to the per 
secutor. That incident in Falmouth was for me very unfortunate. 
It distorted my vision. Four years before, when Grace Green 
wood advised me to read a story coming out in the National 

* When I visited Fredericksburg twenty years later, to be welcomed 
and feted by those who once drove me away, Uncle Valentine again accom 
panied me on the cars in Stafford, and said : " When we last rode together 
here and I reproached you for your abolitionism, you made a reply I 
never forgot. You expressed wonder that we Virginians did not sec 
that the agitation against slavery was part of a world-wide movement 
for human liberty a movement whose force was immeasurable and in 
evitable and would ultimately overwhelm our Southern institution. Your 
prediction has been fulfilled." We looked out on the dear old fields of 
Stafford, which the tramp of armies had desolated. 



i;o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Era, " Uncle Tom s Cabin," I read a few chapters, but did not 
care to obtain the further ones. Not only was I as yet in tran 
sition on the slavery question, but I recognised nothing in 
Mrs. Stowe s romance that was true of slavery in Virginia. But 
how terrible is the personal factor ! Poor Shylock says : " The 
curse never fell upon our race till now ; I never felt it till now." 
I read " Uncle Tom s Cabin " with different eyes ; and recalling 
every ugly incident connected with negroes that I had seen 
since childhood and at Warrenton the sales of slaves were ugly 
enough though rare I concluded that Mrs. Stowe s book was 
a photographic representation of things going on in States farther 
south. 

I still loved my State, and the position I had at Washington, 
considered so enviable by other young ministers, by no means 
consoled me for the fading of my dream of an apostolate in 
Virginia. At the close of April a Unitarian minister, Mr. Crapster, 
was to fill my pulpit, and I seized the occasion for an excursion 
into the part of Virginia where I had never been. Accompanied 
by Franklin Philp, whose wife was the organist in my church, I 
visited Harper s Ferry, Weir s Cave, and the Natural Bridge, 
then made my way to Charlottesville. 

As we strolled through the beautiful grounds of the Uni 
versity of Virginia and saw the fine-looking students, my old 
missionary dream revived. Hastening into the town I secured 
a sort of hall, and placards were posted announcing that on the 
next afternoon (Sunday) I would preach. I do not remember 
whether I announced any special subject, but probably indicated 
that it was unorthodox, for one or two students came primed 
for opposition in the discussion, which it was said would be 
invited. The room was crowded, mainly by university men 
my name and connections were well known and I had gathered 
for the occasion what I considered the best passages of several 
sermons. No doubt I alluded to the rationalism of the founder 
of their university, President Jefferson, but was prudent enough 
not to make any allusion to slavery. My objections to the chief 
dogmas were based on both scriptural and rational grounds. 
The discussion that followed was quiet and scholarly. Fortu 
nately I had a little Greek Testament along, and was able to 
score a point by proving that my text, 2 Tim. iii., 16, " All 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 171 

Scripture is given by inspiration of God," etc., should be trans 
lated " Every Scripture inspired by God is profitable," etc. My 
opponents, however, were well drilled in their faith, and no doubt 
as well satisfied as I was with the discussion. In that remote 
place, where Unitarianism was unknown, they were as eager as 
the ancient Athenians for some new thing, and I had pleasant 
interviews with some of them. 

One evening a large bonfire in the neighbourhood of the uni 
versity attracted my attention, and on going out to it, I found 
the students making around it a great hullabaloo whose cause I 
could not understand. But I now learned that Mrs. Stowe, 
author of " Uncle Tom s Cabin," had just arrived on a visit to her 
relative, the wife of Professor McGuffie. The occasion was seized 
for a frolicsome manifestation. Someone at our hotel told me 
that Mrs. Stowe was only the pretext for a frolic, as the Faculty 
might be timid about repressing an orgie disguised as an ex 
pression of Southern sentiment. Whether there were any un 
pleasant effects for the professor s family or Mrs. Stowe I do not 
know, but I went off feeling that there was an impassable barrier 
to my entering on any ministry in Virginia. 

I had received from Richmond a letter from Thomas H. 
Wynne (who had been on the staff of cousin John Daniel s paper 
until he Daniel had been sent as Minister to Sardinia), in 
which he said, " Your discourses gave the fullest satisfaction, 
and numerous inquiries have been addressed to me in regard to 
the possibility of securing your services altogether." Had it 
not been for that incident at Falmouth I should probably have 
left Washington and settled in Richmond. No " Salvationist " 
was ever more ardent than I was in my desire to grapple with the 
dark and evil powers steadily taking possession of my State. 

Meanwhile, however, my labours in Washington and truly 
I toiled through all the daylight of the week secured favour. 
Even my father was adapting himself to the situation on finding 
that I was steadfast to my aim. My discourses were rarely on 
public matters or polemical questions ; they dealt mainly with 
the human heart and spiritual life, self-truthfulness, the functions 
of doubt and duty of inquiry. 

Dr. Burnap was a good deal troubled by " the abolition 
complexion of the ordination services," and reminded me that 



i;2 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

" one ism is enough at a time." Concerning my latitudinarian 
tendencies he had apprehensions, but still called me his Timothy. 
In one of our talks he said, " The miracles cannot be denied without 
tearing the New Testament to pieces. Christianity stands prac 
tically on three legs Miracles of Jesus, Sanctity of Sunday, and 
the Christian Ministry. Take either away and it must topple 
over." 

The first sermon of mine published in Washington was en 
titled, " The Old and the New : A Sermon containing the History 
of the First Unitarian Church in Washington City." It was 
given December 31, 1854. I remember across all the years the 
pains taken in the preparation of this historical sermon. No 
history of the church existed, and for some weeks I had gone 
about making inquiries of the older families for information. 
One-third of the sermon was an exhortation relating to the 
duties transmitted to us by a Past altogether honourable. Its 
composition was indeed a burden. Not yet twenty-three 
years of age at my installation, I had to give instruction to 
grey-haired men, to families well acquainted with the condi 
tions of thought and life in the great capital where I was 
a novice. 

I did not enter on my Washington ministry in any polemical 
spirit ; I was anxious to conform as far as possible with the 
sentiments of the community, and to be friendly with the orthodox 
churches with which our heretical society had established some 
modus vivendi. But soon an occasion arose where it was necessary 
to assume a recusant attitude. In the summer (1855) a terrible 
plague broke out in Virginia (Norfolk and Portsmouth). My 
church promptly raised a large sum for the sufferers. On Sep 
tember 16, when a collection was made for that purpose, I gave 
a discourse on " The True and the False in Prevalent Theories 
of Divine Dispensation." Although I opposed the many pulpit 
assertions that the plague was a judgment from Heaven, I had 
nothing much better than commonplace optimism with which 
to confront such superstition. The sermon, however, con 
tained a passage which notified my congregation that I was 
able to see a Satan if not a God in the pestilence namely, the 
evil institution that degraded labour and herded families into 
squalid quarters where disease and crime find their nests. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 173 

The sermon was printed with the following preface : 

When it was suggested by some who agreed with the sentiments 
of the following discourse, that its publication might be beneficial, 
the writer, having prepared it in the ordinary course of his ministry, 
and without any view to publication, declined. Since that, the 
following resolution has been issued by the Board of Aldermen and 
the Common Council : 

" Resolved, That as, in all time of our tribulation, it becomes us 
to acknowledge the hand of the Almighty, and, by prayer and sup 
plication, call for His merciful aid and deliverance ; that, therefore, 
the Mayor of our city be, and he is hereby, requested to set apart 
Wednesday, the 26th inst., as a day of fasting, humiliation, and 
prayer ; that he request the citizens to assemble in their various 
places of public worship, and offer petitions to Almighty God in 
behalf of those He has seen fit to visit so sorely, and that He will 
be pleased to avert from us such terrible calamity." 

Feeling that we cannot assemble on that day to " acknowledge 
the hand of the Almighty," and " call for His merciful deliverance " 
from His own hand ; nor assist in rendering persons less able to give 
for the relief of the sufferers, by loss of a day s wages ; nor bear our 
testimony, however feeble, in favour of a sanctity which deprives the 
people of thirty or forty thousand dollars, that the Council may 
have its conscience soothed by a day s crying of " Lord ! Lord ! " 
for its refusal to appropriate five or even one thousand dollars for 
the sufferers ; nor petition Him to do the work of our board in 
averting " from us such terrible calamity," we shall not open our 
church on that day. 

In place of such ministrations, this discourse is offered to the 
public. The author does not anticipate much open sympathy with 
his sentiments, but has yet to learn that the truth may not be most 
demanded by the time and place that give it the least welcome. 

WASHINGTON, September 21, 1855. 

I had not consulted my society about closing the church on 
Fast Day, but sent word to the committee that I could not 
personally participate in that function. Nearly all of the society 
approved my course, but it brought down thunders from most 
of the pulpits. Having exhausted the pestilence as a topic, 
they did their part to bring down a divine judgment on the 
pestilence of heresy. 



1/4 TH E AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The yellow fever had begun to decline before the Fast Day 
came ; the activity and generosity of our society in helping the 
sufferers was well known ; and the extent to which our pulpit 
censors had fasted " for strife and debate, and to smite with 
the fist," served to crowd my church on September 30, the 
subject announced being " Pharisaism and Fasting." The sar 
casms of Isaiah on fasting and the warnings of Jesus against 
public fasting supplied me with ammunition, but the absurdities 
of the preachers were almost self-refuting. Poor little Norfolk, 
it appeared, had been chosen by deified wrath as a victim for the 
sins of all America ! 

An appendix to this discourse as printed contains the letter 
of Lord Palmerston, October 19, 1853, to the Presbytery of 
Edinburgh declining their request that the government should 
appoint a fast day on account of the cholera, his reasons con 
firming those that led me to protest against the fast day in 
Washington. To this was added an editorial from the London 
Times, November 2, 1853, in support of Palmerston s refusal. 
Its picture of the unctuous popular preacher, who " has enough 
ottomans for a Pasha and enough slippers for a centipede," 
excited laughter, and the incident was closed. 

It was a sufficient solace for all sharp criticisms that the 
poet Longfellow wrote me : " Thanks for your brave and manly 
discourse on the Fast. It is a true and valiant word." 

The most important result of this incident was its revelation 
that my congregation was essentially rationalistic, and that 
leading citizens of Washington by no means shared the vulgar 
superstitions. Although I never had to deal with any further 
attacks from the pulpits, the positions I had assumed, when I 
came to re-read them, did not quite satisfy myself. Possibly 
some of my more philosophical listeners felt that in refuting some 
fallacies I had raised problems without solving them. I re 
member my dear friend Hudson Taylor saying, " I wish you would 
preach us a sermon on God simply God." I was startled by 
the demand, but no doubt told him I would try to respond to it ; 
but I had reason to ponder the case of Simonides, who, asked by 
Hiero " Who or what was God ? " required a day to consider ; 
and when Hiero came for his answer, another day, and at the 
end of every day another, the difficulty increasing in proportion 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 175 

with the thought bestowed upon it. I did indeed give a discourse 
on reverence for God, in a series on the Three Reverences (in 
Goethe s " Wilhelm Meister "), but on reading it now I recall 
once more Renan s reflection on the many headaches suffered 
by young men in exchanging one error for another. 

Early in the nineteenth century several families, chiefly of 
English birth, living in Washington, used to meet on Sundays in 
each other s houses, and read Unitarian literature. They dis 
covered in the city a merchant, Robert Little, formerly a clergy 
man of the English church, from which he had withdrawn because 
of his Unitarianism. This led to the formation of a Unitarian 
society, and its building was dedicated (1822) by Robert Little. 
The church was attended at the same time by John Quincy 
Adams, President, and John C. Calhoun, the famous Southern 
senator. Calhoun gave a large subscription, and a gentleman 
who received it told me that in giving it the senator said : "It 
will be the religion of the country in fifty years." Robert Little 
sometimes preached in the House of Representatives, and Jared 
Sparks, the most eminent Unitarian minister of that time, was 
elected chaplain of Congress. There had been long intervals in 
which visitors of national reputation had occupied the pulpit, 
the most frequent and able of these being Dr. Orville Dewey. This 
minister and lecturer was a devotee of Daniel Webster. He 
had excited anti-slavery wrath by an imprudent remark, and he 
privately said to me that if I preached anti-slavery views in 
Washington I would not maintain myself there. 

The traditions of the Washington pulpit had thus established 
a very high standard of preaching. This I knew very well, and 
it was not without trepidation that I entered on my work. I 
had, however, not only a distinguished but a generous and 
sympathetic audience. Never was there a fairer sky above a 
young minister, and I was for a time able to ignore the small 
cloud in it. This cloud might be symbolised by one pew, more 
finely cushioned than the rest. It was that in which President 
Fillmore had sat, undisturbed by any allusion from the pulpit 
to his having signed the Fugitive Slave Bill. 

Justice Daniel of the Supreme Court, my mother s uncle, her 
half-brother Cushing Daniel, and other relatives in Washington, 
treated me with the old affection. I was welcomed in beautiful 



i;6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

homes. Mr. Hudson Taylor, now of Poughkeepsie, presently 
received me into his house, and though a wealthy man, generously 
agreed to accept payment rather than have me drift among 
the boarding-houses. He and his wife gave me a happy home. 
His brother Franck a man of wide reading and his brilliant 
wife, nfo Wallach, were almost parental in their kindness to me. 
Their daughters Charlotte, now Mrs. Robley Evans; Virginia, 
who married in Poughkeepsie ; and Emily, now wife of Frederick 
McGuire, superintendent of the Corcoran Gallery and their sons, 
Morgan, Frank, and Harry, now distinguished naval officers 
were all charming. The Unitarian social circle in Washington 
was unsurpassed for intelligence and influence. 

Mr. Seaton had given to his National Intelligencer a reputa 
tion suggested in the story that a jury once decided that if a 
dead man were found with that paper in his pocket it was evi 
dence of his respectability. He used to say that the chief edi 
torial art was in knowing what to keep out of a paper. He had 
been an eminent mayor of Washington, was in every way an 
attractive gentleman of the old school, and his beautiful mansion 
in the centre of Washington was the seat of hospitality. He and 
his gracious wife always invited me on Sunday evening, when the 
family was often joined by their married daughter, the brilliant 
Mrs. Columbus Monroe. 

Joseph Gales, a founder of the National Intelligencer and of 
our church, though too infirm to attend, was cordial ; and I 
have in late years often had reason to regret that I did not then 
know that he was a son of the publisher who sixty years before 
had fled from prosecution in Sheffield, England, for publishing 
there Thomas Paine s " Rights of Man." * 

Judge Cranch, father of Christopher, poet and artist, was 
too old to attend church regularly. He died in September, 
1855, aged eighty-six. My discourse " On the Life and Character 
of the Hon. William Cranch, LL.D., late Chief Justice of the 
District of Columbia," was published by Franck Taylor, on re 
quest of the society. The character and wide influence of this 

* When Paine, after his terrible experiences in Europe, returned to 
America in 1802, it was the elder Gales who welcomed him to Washington, 
despite the rage of pulpits, and in the National Intelligencer first appeared 
four of Paine s Letters to the Citizens, of America. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 177 

judge, who held his official place fifty-four years, had done more 
to diffuse in Washington respect for Unitarianism than all the 
preachers together. He was fond of music, and had an organ in 
his house. I was told that on one occasion, when the organist 
failed to come, the beautiful old man with his flowing white 
locks arose from his pew, ascended to the choir, and played all 
the music. 

There were in the society persons of special knowledge and 
ability whose friendship was invaluable to me. Among these 
was Professor Espy, the meteorologist, a born philosopher 
(necessitarian), another being Dr. Nichols, physician of the 
Insane Asylum. Lieutenant Edward Hunt, U.S.A., an admirable 
gentleman and scientific man, had recently married Miss Helen 
Fiske, in later years known by her literary works published under 
the initials " H. H." Helen had never been in a Unitarian 
church until she came with her husband to ours. Without 
being exactly beautiful, she was of distinguished appearance 
tall, fair, and with candid beaming eyes, in which kindliness 
contended with penetration. She was highly educated, brilliant 
and sometimes satirical in conversation, dressed with elegance, 
and while laughing at the world of fashion, entered it with an 
eagerness that suggested previous repression, perhaps of a reli 
gious kind. While always adequate to the functions of her social 
position, they could not " stale her infinite variety." She could 
be philosophical at one moment, merry and witty at another, 
and in whatever vein was engaging. But she then showed no 
inclination for literary pursuits. It was a serious loss to me 
when the Hunts were ordered off to Rhode Island, but I visited 
them there. 

I had given Helen, at Washington, Emerson s works, and 
the study of these, and also the development of her beautiful 
little son Rennie, made her more serious. She told me that she 
had one day found herself in the same railway car with Emerson, 
and both being alone, she introduced herself in my name. Emerson 
had received her cordially, and she had with him an hour s 
conversation, the memory of which was treasured. She was a 
lover of Hawthorne s works. She said that she could test the 
intellect or heart of any acquaintance by inducing him or her to 
read one or another of Hawthorne s tales, and afterwards dis- 

M 



i;8 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

covering what they thought of it. She gave one of her guests, a 
military man, " The Snow-Image " to read during an hour s 
absence of herself and husband, and afterwards found he regarded 
it as simply a sort of fairy-tale for a child. " So I adapted my 
conversation to a gentlemanly blockhead." 

Lieutenant Hunt was killed by an explosion while engaged 
on some experiments in his office at Newport, and that tragedy, 
combined with the death of their charming boy Rennie, wrought 
in Helen Hunt an effect of which I recognise some trace in her 
beautiful tale, " Mercy Philbrick s Choice." Her hair did not 
indeed at once turn white like that of Mercy Philbrick, nor did 
she enter the pulpit, but she became a beloved teacher to a 
parish which included all lovers of literature. At Washington 
Helen ridiculed everyone with " a mission " ; the later years of 
her life were devoted to the cause of American Indians. 

As the receptions of the President were those of the nation, 
and not of the particular President who happened to be its cham 
berlain, I attended them occasionally until the wars in Kansas 
began. The receptions were very brilliant, and it is a pity that 
no artist painted the scene. Nearly every lady was dressed in 
white, decolletee to an extent now rarely known in America even 
on the stage, but evening dress for gentlemen was not general. 

President Pierce was gracious and gentlemanly as a host. 
Of the ladies who received with him I have no remembrance at 
all. The President s countenance, though not intellectual, had 
a certain expression of refinement and even benevolence with 
which I could never harmonise the outrages in Kansas. 

" All men become good creatures, but so slow ! " says Brown 
ing. What has become of Pierce ? I cannot think a man bad- 
hearted who was beloved by Horatio Bridge, U.S.N. (whom I 
knew slightly, but would have tried to make my friend had I 
foreseen his book about Nathaniel Hawthorne), and who so 
gently soothed the last days of Hawthorne s life. There has 
been many a worse man in the White House than Franklin Pierce, 
but there might be written on his tomb the words of Buddha : 
: Whatever a hater may do to a hater, or an enemy to an enemy, 
a wrongly directed mind will do us greater mischief." 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Ante-bellum Washington Incongruities The McGuires Benoni Lewis 
Cass Jefferson Davis Seward John P. Hale Charles Sumner 
General Winfield Scott Science and Literature Salmon P. Chase 
Dr. Bailey Longfellow s "Hiawatha" Ministerial Experiences 
Walt Whitman The World -burden Gerald FitzGerald. 

THOSE who know only the post-bellum Washington cannot realise 
the charm of the earlier city. Fifty years ago there were two 
Washingtons one a large hotel distributed in edifices meeting 
the official nation s need, the other a village still rambling at 
large after its two generations. The village had been steadily 
swamped by the capital, but it was to that my intimacy mainly 
belonged, and life therein was delightful. To the old residents 
and their circle the national Washington was scenic, also not a 
little grotesque, and always amusing. I kept at times a scrawling 
journal, and select a few notes which, though of little interest, 
may give some idea of the incongruities one encountered in the 
primitive Washington. 

To-day I saw the Catholic saint Mrs. Mattingly entering her 
house. It is, I believe, the thirteenth year since she arose from 
the bed whereon she lay, so far as human judgment could go, dying 
of cancer. Her importance to the Catholic Church here was so great 
that the Pope ordered that mass should be said for her recovery 
on a given hour throughout the world. On that hour she was informed 
that the Church universal was praying for her. Her system was 
revolutionised, and the cancer gradually withered from that moment. 
Her case has been the means of converting many hereabout. Op 
posite her house a " psychological healing medium " has put out 
his card, declaring himself ready, with the aid of spirits, to do the 
same thing for anyone afflicted, at a dollar per head. 

Visited, in company with John L. Hayes (a distinguished lawyer), 

Lord . He is an English nobleman, who, having spent all 

his means in litigation to obtain some vast Canadian estates to which 
he believes himself entitled, is now ending his days miserably in a 



i8o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

garret in Washington, and is kept from starvation by charity. Mr. 
Hayes has examined his claims to the estates, and has no doubt 
of their being well founded. Hard by is the splendid mansion of a 
millionaire, who came here a barefoot boy, with no claims but that 
which every industrious boy has upon the vast estate of the New 
World. 

At the President s reception this evening the brilliant wife of 

the Russian Count B attracted all eyes. I remember her years 

ago as a schoolgirl in Georgetown whom I used to meet eating bread- 
and-butter, and dragging her satchel for a wagon on her way to 
school. The Russian count also met her, admired the pretty face 
beneath the bread-and-butter, kept his eyes on her, and just as she 
was leaving school adorned her with pearls and diamonds, and took 
her to St. Petersburg as Countess B. 

Met to-day a descendant of the Fairfax family quite a beautiful 
lady, and one too proud of her lineage to marry a mere democrat. 
She is poor. The family once owned a farm in Virginia larger than 
England and Wales together. 

Passed a pleasant evening in the company of a niece of the novel 
ist Zschokke. She had, or was supposed to have, in her youth the 
gift of second-sight. She gave me an interesting account of the 
experiments w r hich she underwent to satisfy her uncle Zschokke s 
curiosity in such matters, and which led him to write his celebrated 
story, " The Sleep- Waker." She was forbidden by a physician the 
exercise of her power, and it finally left her. She is the wife of the 
Swiss consul at Washington. 

New Year s Day, 1855. It is the custom in Washington for 
the ladies of every distinguished house to receive callers. There is 
no restriction whatever, the brutal having the freedom of refined 
homes. I saw drunken men reeling into the front doors of refined 
families, their object being to devour the dainties provided lavishly 
on such occasions. At the house of Mayor Seaton I found the ladies 
shrinking, in the absence of any protection, before two half-tipsy 
fellows of the " know-nothing " species, who were demanding whether 
they (the ladies) did not think that " Americans should rule America," 
and that every "damned Abolitionist should be hung." 

Outside of my congregation I enjoyed acquaintance with 
several families, one being the McGuires. The elder McGuire 
father of Frederick, now superintendent of the Corcoran Gallery 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 181 

had lived in Washington from early youth, and had personal 
knowledge of the historic events and personages of that region. 
With his humour and graphic powers he related personal ex 
periences and anecdotes which made many dry bones live even 
in my own Virginia neighbourhood for he was not an imagina 
tive man, and his every narrative had the ring of truth. He 
had known President Jackson and accompanied him on the 
steamer to Aquia Landing, and thence by stage-coach to Freder- 
icksburg, where Jackson (1832) inaugurated the monument of 
the mother of Washington. He witnessed the sensational inci 
dent that occurred when the boat paused at Alexandria, where 
an officer named Randolph rushed aboard and pulled Jackson s 
nose an action by which the President and those around him 
were so paralysed that the assailant walked quietly ashore. The 
President gave beside the monument an admirable address, but 
McGuire did not hear it, and told me why. When the company 
reached Fredericksburg they were distributed about in its hos 
pitable homes. Young McGuire after his weary journey slept 
soundly. In the early morning he was awakened by a coloured 
servant who bore a very large tumbler of something unknown. 
He drank the whole of this iced liquid, the most delicious thing 
lie had ever tasted, and straightway went to sleep again. After a 
time he waked up, and went downstairs to breakfast. He found 
food set out, but the house was entirely vacant ; he walked to 
the front door and found the street also empty. One human 
being, an extremely aged negro, came hobbling along, who in 
formed him that the whole town had gone out to Kenmore, a 
mile away, to hear the President s speech. The ceremony was 
early in order that the President might return to Washington 
the same afternoon. McGuire hastened out, but met the crowd 
coming back. So he returned to Washington with no recollection 
of Fredericksburg except its extremely matinal hospitality and 
the fallacious charms of the mint-julep. 

The office-seeking spirit supplied Washington with charac 
teristic types of insanity. There was sometimes seen on Penn 
sylvania Avenue a poor fellow in shabby, half-military dress, 
who imagined himself to be George Washington, and the boys 
trooping at his heels to be an enthusiastic people. There was a 
more striking figure who believed himself to be Lafayette. His 



182 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

name was Benoni. I first came upon him when taking a walk 
beyond the western limit of the city. In a beautiful grove the 
old man was sitting on a log in front of his hut. His long and 
matted hair, his beard reaching to his breast from every part of 
his cheeks, his yellowish complexion, the glassy brightness of 
his eye, might have made him a comfortable living among the 
artists of Paris or Rome. He had constructed a hut with old 
rails, and there I visited him. A fire in the centre ; an old coffee 
pot and skillet ; a plank for bed with no clothing for it these 
constituted the whole estate of Benoni. The autumn frosts were 
already upon us, and I asked Benoni if he would not be more 
comfortable in the city. He could not, he said, go away at 
present ; he had passed three winters there, and had been assured 
by the President that by next spring his country-seat would be 
ready. He lived on what the market wagons cast to him. 

Foremost among " cranks " was the editor of Truth. With 
his many documents of importance to his country which he was 
eager to show, he was a bore. He had once caused a commotion 
in the Senate gallery by wishing to shoot Henry Clay, but that 
had not got him into an asylum, nor even the wild insanity of 
supposing that a paper named Truth could live in Washington. 
But its prospectuses alone lived. Every election year he an- 
nourced himself a candidate for the presidency, declaring that 
he loved his country as he loved his God. 

I have sometimes queried whether Henry Labouchere did 
not get the title of his famous London journal from that poor 
creature in Washington. For it was in 1854-55 that Labouchere 
was involved with the British Legation at Washington for raising 
American recruits for the Crimean War, and when he was sent 
back with his chief Crampton to England perhaps he may have 
carried among his souvenirs of Washington lunacy a prospectus 
of the original Truth ! 

The most interesting figure in Congress to me was Senator 
Seward. I met him only two or three times the first time at 
a reception and luxurious supper in his own house, where I was 
introduced to him by the Hon Robert C. Schenck, but had no 
opportunity for conversation.* I remember, however, standing 

* Seward knew the political importance of terrapin and champagne. 
I was told that once on hearing some compromisers were coming on a 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 183 

near and observing him while he was talking with eminent per 
sonages. His air was that of candour, and it was the same in 
his speeches. There was in his whole manner one might say, 
rather, absence of manner abandon, freedom from artifices, 
and self-restraint. 

Senator Seward s prestige among the anti-slavery people 
had been made by his bold condemnation of the Fugitive Slave 
Law (1850), in which he declared that men would not obey it ; 
they would be guided by " a higher law." The Southern con 
gressmen made what capital they could out of this alleged de 
claration that there was a law higher than the Constitution. But 
Seward was after all a child of the political phase of the anti- 
slavery movement ; he was not trusted by those of the religious 
era. Senator Sumner was the watchman for these, and had an 
instinctive distrust of Seward. After the execution of John 
Brown for his attack at Harper s Ferry, Seward made a speech 
in which Sumner remarked to me the inconsistency of saying 
at one point that Brown was insane and at another that he was 
" justly punished." Seward was in Europe when the John 
Brown excitement occurred, and that imprudent phrase uttered 
immediately on his return probably cost him the presidency. 

John P. Hale, senator of New Hampshire, was a solid, hand 
some man, with clear-cut features, a good voice, and a lucid, 
vivacious way of speaking. His impressiveness as an orator 
was partly due, like that of John Bright, to a humanised religious 
feeling which warmed and quickened his ethical principles. He 
once spoke of the enslaved and despised African " who yet bears 
within him a nature destined to run parallel to the eternity of 
God." He had much reputation as a humorist. Hale was, I 
think, the most popular of the anti-slavery Senators among the 
Southerners. But he warned them solemnly that they were 
trying to carry slavery through an age to which it did not belong. 
" You cannot steer an iceberg through the tropics. The warm 
sun will shine on it and melt it ; the rains will fall on it and melt 
it ; the winds will beat on it and melt it." 

certain evening to coax him in behalf of some measure, he had a fine 
supper prepared, and after listening to them threw open the dining-room 
door, and said to the congressmen, " Gentlemen, let us table your motion 
for the present ! " 



1 84 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



Senator Hale had an attractive family. His daughters were 
among the young ladies from the North whose invasion the old 
Southern society in Washington could hardly resist. 

Senator Sumner fell just short of being a great statesman. 
I enjoyed his friendship for many years and recognised his fine 
qualities, but always felt regret that Massachusetts should not 
be represented in the Senate by men more adapted to the crisis 
through which the country was passing than either Sumner or his 
colleague, Henry M. Wilson. Sumner had no sense of humour, 
and his way of treating things was too academic. I believe he 
would have been a stronger man if he had married earlier ; he 
did marry late in life, too late for the marriage to be happy. He 
apparently had no relative or friend intimate enough to criticise 
him. His most intimate friends at home (Boston) were the 
Longfellows, who were too loyal to him, as indeed most of us 
were, on account of his inflexible devotion to our cause, to tell 
him his faults. Sumner was an incarnation of the anti-slavery 
conscience ; he was sent to take the place of Webster, whose last 
appearance in the capitol was to listen to his successor s arraign 
ment of the Fugitive Slave Law for which he (Webster) was 
chiefly responsible. 

I sometimes met General Winfield Scott. In 1852 he had 
been a Whig candidate for the presidency, on a platform of 
the suppression of any further discussion of the slavery question. 
For this he had been much ridiculed North and South. My 
cousin Daniel said in his Richmond Examiner that Scott s first 
name was originally " Wingfield," but the " g " had been dropped 
for the more military " Winfield." Mayor Seaton, at whose 
house I used to meet him, thought him rather garrulous, but he 
was a striking figure. To all who knew the old gentleman it must 
have been appalling that at the beginning of the Union war the 
armies of the United States should have been under the command 
of this aged general ; and yet I now have to credit him with 
the wisdom of having advised against the defence of Fort 
Sumter. Had his advice been followed, the war might have 
been avoided. 

There was never much literary ability in Congress. Daniel 
Webster gained credit for learning by his legal argument on the 
Girard bequest founding a college from which ministers of religion 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 185 

were excluded. But I was informed that all the historical know 
ledge in it was supplied to him by a learned Methodist, Rev. W. B. 
Edwards. Longfellow said that Sumner recalled to him the his 
toric speakers in Parliament, but the senator used to be ridiculed 
for his Latin quotations. Congressman Upham, who wrote the 
valuable monograph on Salem Witchcraft, impressed me he 
attended my church as a fine literary intellect entombed in 
politics. 

Outside Congress there was a good deal of intellectual activity 
of the scientific kind. Lieutenant Maury and Professor Espy, 
and at the Smithsonian Institution Professors Henry and Baird, 
gave Washington a fine reputation in that direction. School- 
craft s researches were interesting all countries in the aborigines. 
The best feature of Washington was the courses of lectures given 
at the Smithsonian, not limited to science, which enabled us to 
hear eminent educators from various parts of the country. For 
modern American history we had George Washington Parke 
Custis, who compiled all the fictions about General Washington 
which historians find so impregnable. Custis was the man, I 
have reason to believe, who told Jared Sparks that the fine Mar- 
mion portrait of Betty Lewis was his grandmother ; and to this 
day the portrait of Washington s sister in Sparks appears as that 
of his wife ! " Grace Greenwood," as yet more celebrated for 
her beauty than her writings, and Mrs. Southworth, were devoting 
themselves to literature. I remember one man, George Wood, 
a government clerk, who aspired to literary distinction. He 
wrote " Peter Schlemihl in America " and " The Modern Pilgrim." 
I reviewed one of his books for the Intelligencer, and Mr. Seaton 
persuaded me to make it less severe. Wood heaped coals of fire 
on me by writing in praise of my sermons. 

The handsomest man in the Senate was Salmon P. Chase, 
afterwards Chief Justice. I heard Dr. McClintock say : " People 
who suppose the anti-slavery men wicked ought to get a look at 
that heavenly face of Senator Chase." The face was always 
serene and fairly represented the man. Nothing could ruffle him, 
and the pro-slavery senators gave up trying to irritate him. He 
had reached his opinions by careful study of the Constitution, 
and on any question that arose concerning laws relating to slavery 
his statement was final. He was a good clear speaker, but never 



1 86 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

rhetorical. He was more interesting in conversation than in 
debate, but went little into society. 

Dr. and Mrs. Gamaliel Bailey of the National Era had estab 
lished in Washington a brilliant salon. At their soirees there were 
always distinguished guests from abroad, and " Grace Green 
wood " was on these occasions quite equal to any of those French 
dames whose salons have become historic. The Bailey entertain 
ments were of more importance in furthering anti-slavery senti 
ment in Washington than has been appreciated. The anti- 
slavery senators were rarely met there, with the exception of 
Hale ; but their ladies often came. A good many repre 
sentatives attended. Two North-Carolinians, Goodloe and 
Helper, virtually exiled, found welcome and sympathy there. 
Nothing in Washington was more brilliant than the Bailey 
soiree. The bright and pretty " Yankee " ladies got up the 
atricals, charades, tableaux, and the White House receptions 
were dull in comparison. 

The serious force and learning characteristic of the National 
Era could hardly prepare one to find in Dr. Bailey the elegant 
and polished gentleman that he was. He was the last man 
that one might imagine facing the mob that destroyed his printing- 
press in Cincinnati. I do not wonder that the mob gathered for 
similar violence in Washington had quailed before his benign 
countenance and calm good-natured address to them. Mrs. 
Bailey, a tall, graceful, and intellectual woman, possessed all the 
nerve necessary to pass through those ordeals, while at the same 
time her apparent role was that of introducing young ladies into 
Washington society and shining as the centre of a refined social 
circle. 

I did not write for the National Era, but when I could spare 
time from my sermons wrote for the National Intelligencer, which 
reached my own people, as the Era did not. Payment was never 
thought of, as I contributed only what I wished to have pub 
lished barring, of course, theology and slavery. I wrote several 
reviews, one of these being of Longfellow s " Hiawatha " (fall of 
1855), which brought me a grateful note from the poet. I possess 
no copy of my review, but my memory is that I had read up the 
aboriginal legends. At any rate, when soon after Longfellow 
was accused of appropriating the stories along with the metre 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 187 

of " Kalewala," the Finnish epic, I was able to defend him. Long 
fellow, in a note of December 3, 1855, said : 

I wrote you a few days ago to thank you for your generous article 
on " Hiawatha," and now I must write again to thank you still more 
for coming so swiftly to my rescue in this onslaught of " T. C. P.," 
whose chief motive for publishing his "astounding discovery" seems 
to be to inform the world that he has read " Kalewala." 

It is really too abject and pitiful, and one does not want to waste 
time upon it. Still, I am greatly obliged to you for saying what you 
did, and as you may not have the Indian books at hand I enclose the 
refutation of the charges touching Hiawatha s birth and departure. 
I can do the same if necessary with each and every legend, though 
of course not with the detail of the working up. 

Longfellow also sent his copy of " Kalewala." " T. C. P." 
I never identified.* 

It was a satisfaction to be entirely relieved of all those relics 
of " extreme unction " which make so important a part of Metho 
dist ministry. Of course, I visited my friends when they were 
ill, but it was not as a minister. 

One morning a middle-aged lady called on me and said that 
her husband had been taken ill as they were passing through 
Washington, and the doctor thought he might die. They were 
unacquainted in the city. She was herself an Episcopalian, 
but her husband was a freethinker, and would certainly not 
receive an orthodox clergyman. She earnestly desired that he 
should be visited by some minister of religion, and as he was 
more friendly to Unitarians than to others, she asked if I would 
call. I said that I would see him if she was sure that my visit 
would be well received by the sufferer, and not excite his resent 
ment. She promised to converse with him, and I would learn 
at the door whether I would be welcome. Their lodging was 

* In one of his letters Longfellow sent me an extract from one he had 
from Emerson, which says : "I find this Indian poem very wholesome, 
sweet and wholesome as maize, very proper and pertinent for us to read, 
and showing a kind of manly sense of duty in the poet to write. The 
clangers of the Indians are that they are really savage, have poor, small, 
sterile heads, no thoughts, and you must deal very roundly with them, 
and find them in brains ; and I blamed your tenderness now and then, 
as I read, for accepting a legend or a song when they have too little to 
give." 



i88 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

near my church, and when I called the lady took me into the 
invalid s room. In the bed I saw a handsome man of about sixty 
with a look of keen intelligence. I perceived that he was on 
the defensive. His wife, he said, desired him to see me, and 
for her sake he agreed, but was afraid it was not fair to me, as 
he had no belief whatever in Christianity. I told him there was 
no need for such fear, as it made no difference to me whether he 
was a Christian or not. He then smiled and related that several 
preachers had tried to convert him, and he had said to the last 
one, " The man who tells me that the Bible is as great a book as 
Shakespeare is a fool." When he saw that I was not shocked by 
this he became very affable. I think that one of his reasons for 
receiving me was that he feared an orthodox funeral in case of 
death. His case improved, however, and he was able to reach 
his distant home. I have regretted in later years my loss of 
memoranda concerning the name and address of the family. 

I think the half-humorous remark of that man about Shake 
speare had a serious effect upon me. I was still backward in 
my appreciation of Shakespeare. I had seen several of the 
tragedies on the stage, but never performed by great actors, 
and though I read the plays they did not appear to be related 
to me. I have an impression that Emerson s chapter on Shake 
speare in " Representative Men " had misdirected me with regard 
to the poet himself. " It must even go into the world s history 
that the best poet led an obscure and profane life, using his 
genius for the public amusement." I remember a criticism I 
had made on some writings of Goethe that seemed to me cynically 
worldly, and Emerson saying, " For the present you desire 
quality rather than quantity." It was indeed so ; my head was 
so crowded with the problems of existence that no room was left 
for any poet unacquainted with the forms in which those problems 
appealed to me. Meantime, however, I was playing too " pluck 
ing light hopes and joys from every stem " without dreaming 
that every flower in the pretty garden contained a sweet secret. 
But that gentleman in Washington, who with what he supposed 
his dying words placed Shakespeare above the Bible, made me 
study the poet more carefully. I find it impossible, however, at 
seventy to estimate what I derived from Shakespeare in those 
early years. I cannot help projecting into my first serious 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 189 

acquaintance with those works the cumulative experience related 
to them. Shakespeare represents to me supremely the test of 
all genius ; namely, that its work anticipates the stages of life. 
His work can never be precisely re-read ; every time I make the 
attempt I find that in the interval some new thoughts and 
experiences, however unconscious, have touched my eyes and 
reveal unsuspected thoughts and depths in the page. 

An important event in 1855 was the appearance of Walt 
Whitman s " Leaves of Grass." Emerson spoke of the book at 
his house, and suggested that I should call on the new poet. I 
read the poem with joy. Democracy had at length its epic. It 
was prophetic of the good time coming when the vulgar herd 
should be transformed into noblemen. The portrait in the book 
was that of a working man, and if one labourer could so flower, 
genius was potential in all. That Walt was posing as one of a 
class to which he did not belong was not realised by me even after 
his own intimation of it, as related in my subjoined letter to 
Emerson (sent me by his son) : 

WASHINGTON, September 17, 1855. 

MY DEAR MR. EMERSON, I immediately procured the " Leaves 
of Grass " after hearing you speak of it. I read it on board the 
steamer Metropolis on my way to New York the evening after see 
ing you, and resolved to see its author if I could while I was in the 
city. As you seemed much interested in him and his work, I have 
taken the earliest moment which I could command since my return 
to give you some account of my visit. 

I found by the directory that one Walter Whitman lived fearfully 
far (out of Brooklyn, nearly), on Ryerton Street, a short way from 
Myrtle Avenue. The way to reach the house is to go down to Fulton 
Street Ferry, after crossing take the Fulton and Myrtle Avenue car, 
and get out at Ryerton Street. It is one of a row of small wooden 
houses with porches which all seem occupied by mechanics. I 
didn t find him there, however. His mother directed me to Rome s 
Printing Office (corner of Fulton and Cranberry Streets), which is 
much nearer, and where he often is. 

I found him reviewing some proof. A man you would not have 
marked in a thousand ; blue striped shirt, opening from a red throat ; 
and sitting on a chair without a back, which, being the only one, he 
offered me, and sat down on a round of the printer s desk himself. 
His manner was blunt enough also, without being disagreeably so. 



igo THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I told him that I had just spent an evening with you, and that 
what you had said of him and the perusal of his book had resulted 
in my call. He seemed very eager to hear from you and about you, 
and what you thought of his book. He had once seen you and heard 
you in the lecture-room, and was anxious to know all he could 
of your life, yet not with any vulgar curiosity, but entire frank 
ness. I told him of the occasions in which Mr. Bartol and others 
had attempted to read it in company and failed, at which he seemed 
much amused. 

The likeness in the book is fair. His beard and hair are greyer 
than is usual with a man of thirty-six. His face and eyes are inter 
esting, and his head rather narrow behind the eyes ; but a thick 
brow looks as if it might have absorbed much. He walked with 
me and crossed the Ferry ; he seemed " hail fellow " with every 
man he met, all apparently in the labouring class. He says he 
is one of that class by choice ; that he is personally dear to some 
thousands of such in New York, who " love him but cannot make 
head or tail of his book." He rides on the stage with the driver, 
stops to talk with the old man or woman selling fruit at the street 
corner ; and his dress, etc., is consistent with that. 

I am quite sure after talking with him that there is much in all 
this of what you might call " playing Providence a little with the 
baser sort " (so much to the distress of the Rev. Vaughan s nerves). 
... I could see that he had some books, if only a bottle-stick like 
Alton Locke to read them by ; though he told me I thought too 
much of books. But I came off delighted with him. His eye can 
kindle strangely, and his words are ruddy with health. He is clearly 
his Book, and I went off impressed with the sense of a new city on 
my map, viz., Brooklyn, just as if it had suddenly risen through the 
boiling sea. 

After reading the " Leaves of Grass," Emerson wrote to the 
author an enthusiastic letter, greeting him " at the beginning of 
a great career." Whitman at once printed an edition prefaced 
with Emerson s letter. Emerson said that if he had known his 
letter would be published he might have qualified his praise. 
" There are parts of the book," he said, " where I hold my nose 
as I read. One must not be too squeamish when a chemist 
brings him to a mass of filth and says, See, the great laws are 
at work here also ; but it is a fine art if he can deodorise his 
illustration. However, I do not fear that any man who has eyes 
in his head will fail to see the genius in these poems. Those are 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 191 

terrible eyes to walk along Broadway. It is all there, as if in an 
auctioneer s catalogue." 

Emerson did not complain seriously of the publication of 
his letter ; it was not marked private, and appeared so carefully 
written that Walt considered it, as he said to me, " a serious 
thing that might be fairly printed." He did not, however, 
print any more of the edition containing it, and that second 
edition is rare. The incident made no difference in Emerson s 
friendliness towards the author, whom he welcomed cordially in 
Concord. 

Walt Whitman did not wonder that Emerson and his Boston 
circle should sniff at his plain-spoken inclusion in his poetry, 
to use his words, " of every process, every concrete object, 
every human or other existence, not only considered from the 
point of view of all, but of each." He told me with a smile 
that he had heard of his poems being offered for sale by a vendor 
of obscene books. My own feeling after twice reading " Leaves 
of Grass " was that his pantheistic inspiration had come from 
Emerson, and his style as well as his broadness mainly from the 
Bible. He had been reared among Quakers, had heard Elias 
Hicks preach, and the Quaker way of spiritualising everything 
in the Bible explained to me the refrains of psalms and Solomonic 
songs in " Leaves of Grass." 

My sister had been with me on this summer excursion, and 
I left her at the Metropolitan Hotel with a lady friend while I 
went to visit Walt. But I had read these young ladies select 
passages from the poem, and they had curiosity to see him. So 
I invited him to early dinner at our hotel next day, and he came 
in baize coat and chequered shirt, in fact, just like the portrait 
in his book. The ladies were pleased with him ; his manners were 
good, and his talk entertaining. 

Walt Whitman told me that I was the first who had visited 
him because of his book. On my second visit, during the summer 
of 1857, ne was n t at home, but I found him at the top of a hill 
near by lying on his back and gazing on the sky. It was Sunday 
morning, and he promptly agreed to a ramble. We first went to 
his house, where I talked a few moments with his mother, a plain, 
pleasant old lady, not so grey as her son, and whose dark eyes had 
an apprehensive look. It was a small frame house. He took 



192 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

me to his little room, with its cot and poor furniture, the only 
decoration being two engravings, one of Silenus and the other of 
Bacchus. What he brought me up there to see was the barren 
solitude stretching from beneath his window towards the sea. 
There were no books in the room, and he told me he had very few, 
but had the use of good libraries. He possessed, however, a 
complete Shakespeare and a translation of Homer. He had 
received a common school education, and had been brought up 
in the Democratic party. He used to attend the gatherings of 
leading men in Tammany Hall in the days when its chief was the 
excellent John Fellowes. But he left the party when the Fugitive 
Slave Law was enacted, and then wrote his first poem, " Blood- 
money," never published. 

We passed the day " loafing " on Staten Island, where we 
found groves and solitary beaches now built over. We had a 
good long bath in the sea, and I perceived that the reddish tanned 
face and neck of the poet crowned a body of lily-like whiteness 
and a shapely form. 

Walt Whitman said to me as we parted, " I have not met 
anyone so charged with my ideas as you." The ideas had at 
tracted me less than the style, because of its marvellous resemb 
lance not only to biblical but to ancient Persian poetry which 
I was reading in the " Desatir " and other books which I found 
he had never heard of. It seemed like the colours of dawn re 
appearing in the sunset. 

Here, too, was a revelation of human realms of which my 
knowledge had been mainly academic. Even while among the 
humble Methodists, the pious people I knew were apart from 
the world, and since then I had moved among scholars or persons 
of marked individuality. Except the negroes, I had known 
nothing of the working masses. But Whitman as I have known 
these many years knew as little of the working-class practically 
as I did. He had gone about among them in the disguise of their 
own dress, and was perfectly honest in his supposition that he 
had entered into their inmost nature. The Quaker training 
tends to such illusion ; it was so in the case of Thomas Paine, who 
wrote transcendental politics and labelled it " Common Sense." 
With our eagerness to believe in the masses our masters we 
credited them with the idealism which Walt Whitman had 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 193 

imaginatively projected into them, and said, " Unto Democracy 
also a child is born ! This is America s answer to Carlyle ! " 
Somebody, probably the author himself, sent the book to Carlyle, 
who once said to me, " The main burden of Leaves of Grass 
seems to be I m a big man because I live in such a big country ! 
But I know of great men who lived in small corners of the world." 
The working-men did not read Whitman s book, and fewer of 
them than he supposed cared about him personally. 

My enthusiasm for " Leaves of Grass " (the only work of 
Whitman I ever cared about) was a sign and symptom that 
the weight of the world had begun to roll on me. In Methodism 
my burden had been metaphysical a bundle of dogmas. The 
world at large was not then mine ; for its woes and wrongs I 
was not at all responsible ; they were far from me, and no one 
ever taught me that the earth was to be healed except at the 
millennium. The only evils were particular ones ; A. was a 
drunkard, B. a thief, C. a murderer, D. had a cancer, and so on. 
When I escaped from the dogmatic burden, and took the pleasant 
rationalistic Christ on my shoulder, he was light as the babe 
St. Christopher undertook to carry across the river. But the new 
Christ became Jesus, was human, and all humanity came with 
him the world- woe, the temporal evil and wrong. I was com 
mitted to deal with actual, visible, present hells instead of an 
invisible one in a possible future. Such was now my contract, 
and to bear the increasing load there was no divine vicar. Jesus 
was no sacrifice, but an exemplar of self-sacrifice. 

The great aim of Methodism was happiness. Conversion was 
signalled by the shout of joy, by hymns, ecstasy, while the devil 
groaned. But this new faith summoned the soul to unending 
sacrifices, severe duties, the heavy cross never to be laid down. 
How small a part of my new religion did I learn from those enter 
taining studies at Divinity Hall ! In fact, I was not equal to all 
this. I was too young ; half of me was a boy and wanted to 
play. I needed a master. But in my own profession who was 
there in Washington to look up to ? 

The worst thing perhaps in taking up a religion which under 
a supernatural solemnity deals with affairs of the world is that 
the minister must have an opinion on every vast question. It 
is expected of him to have his inlet to Omniscience sufficiently 



194 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

free to pass judgment on events big enough to receive the attention 
of deity. Thus at Washington I had to say something about 
the Crimean War. I very earnestly detested all war, but as in 
every conflict one side seems less to blame than the other, I 
took the side of England warmly. I was misled by several 
English writers in whose judgment I had confidence ; and too 
easily, because I was in revolt against the traditional Anglo 
phobia of New England. 

In Washington the highest society in rank was accessible 
to me, but I was not impressionable in that direction. Methodism, 
illustrated by my parents kneeling with the poor in the base 
ment of their house, had implanted in me an ideal of greatness 
that consisted in standing by an humble thing. Among those 
men in political life I could find no hero. I esteemed some, 
respected many, but none filled me with enthusiasm. I was 
at times present at the receptions of grand officials, but would 
not have exchanged for any senatorial or ambassadorial company 
an evening with certain families I loved. My heart was not 
lonely because I had no hero to worship, but the sweet friends 
to whom I looked up in many things looked up to me for guidance 
in the great issues of the time. And what guidance could I 
give in my twenty-fourth year ? 

Of all that swarm of officials, congressmen, officers, not one 
face now emerges with the clearness and radiance of a certain 
youth unknown to fame who tried to share my burden of the 
world- woe and under it perished. This youth, Gerald Fitz- 
Gerald, was about eighteen when I settled in Washington. I 
believe the family were Catholics, but he was the lover of a very 
attractive and spirituelle young lady of my church, and this 
had brought him into contact with new ideas. He became my 
devoted friend, he took to heart my every sermon, and a deter 
mination grew in him to enter the ministry. I did not influence 
him in the least, personally, but even had some misgivings- 
presentiments perhaps of my own approaching troubles. He 
was very handsome, not to say beautiful ; he was intellectually 
brilliant without conceit ; he had a charming voice, fine humour 
every quality that might make a successful minister. So it was 
arranged that he should study at the Divinity School, Cambridge. 

Then came on the war that damnable, double-tongued war 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 195 

that lured the best youth to their graves with promises now 
broken. Just on the threshold of a career already radiant, 
Gerald uplifted the ensign of liberation of both negro and 
nation from slavery, and went forth as a foot-soldier. It would 
not have been difficult, with his influential friends, to secure 
for him a chaplaincy or some other position in the army, but he 
sought it not. 

None of us evti saw Gerald again. Two soldiers reported 
that they found him dying of a wound on the field and bore 
him to the shade of a tree. The place of his burial is unknown. 
Before me is a strangely sweet poem of several pages, privately 
circulated, but by an unknown writer, \vhich is headed : " Gerald 
FitzGerald. Killed in Battle on the Rappahannock, May, 
1863." So vague were the rumours about his end that I long 
cherished a hope that Gerald might be in some kindly cabin 
recovering life, and might yet surprise the circle in Washington 
that so deeply mourned his loss. But in these last years I have 
felt it some compensation that the noble youth died with the 
full assurance that the fair ideal America, and peace never to be 
broken, \vould arise out of the blood he had shed his own, and 
blood of adversaries just as brave. Knowing well Gerald s 
sensitive heart, I feel sure that even had he returned from the 
work of slaughter he could never have smiled in the old way. 
Had he lived to this day he would find himself amid phantoms 
asking, " Was it well then to shed our blood in order that the 
negro might be freely lynched, and North and South united to 
lynch also Spaniard, Filipino and Chinaman ? " 

Rest in your peaceful unknown grave beside the Rappahan 
nock, my friend ! For you no tears, no heartbreaks, no 
harrowing reflection that your chivalry was in vain, and the 
war mere manslaughter ! These are for me, who found you a 
happy youth clinging to me with boyish affection, and from my 
pulpit helped to lay on you the burden of the world. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

The Slavery Issue in Washington George Fitzhugh s Pro-slavery Lecture 
in New Haven Our Petition to the Virginia Legislature Corre 
spondence of Daniel Webster with Dr. Furness Results of the 
Fugitive Slave Law My Plea for Peaceful Disunion Hon. Horace 
Greeley Distress in the Church Caused by my Preaching The 
Church Edifice Needs Repairs Collecting Money at the North 
Assault on Sumner The Fremont Campaign Presentiment of 
Civil War My Fatal Sermon The Struggle in My Society My 
Dismissal Letter from Emerson Letter from W. H. Channing 
Letters of Approval My Farewell Sermon in Washington 
The Immediate Sequel Letters from my Mother. 

CONCERNING the trouble that rent my Washington congregation 
and overcast my bright skies, I can now speak with the calmness 
of a disinterested witness. The Union war obliterated those 
painful differences. Though they broke my heart I have long 
remembered them with as many reproaches against myself as 
against my opponents. 

I had made up my mind to pursue a quiet though not silent 
course concerning slavery, and not to break completely with my 
beloved Virginia. I did not despair of being able to influence 
some of the leaders in the South. Some of my attempts were 
indeed discouraging. My grand-uncle, Justice Daniel, with 
whom I always had affectionate relations, was a man of logical 
intellect, and apparently without dislike of my religious heresies ; 
but when in his house in Washington I ventured to say something 
favourable to the anti-slavery sentiment he closed the subject 
by saying, " I fear those people are very wicked." 

I frequently met the " Freesoil " congressmen, whose aim 
was to exclude slavery from all the Federal domain. 

I thus had opportunities for acquiring knowledge of the 
sentiments of good men on every side of the formidable issue, 
and was certain of their equal sincerity. Amid these opposing 
principles I found myself, at the age of twenty- three, consci- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 19; 

entiousry poised, without clear sight of a practical plan on which 
the force put in 11137 hand might descend. 

I will mention here an incident which I was young enough 
to regard as of importance. In conversing with Senator Hale 
I mentioned the fact that in Virginia it was the most scholarly 
and philosophical young men who discarded old Virginia princi 
ples and advocated slavery per se. I was presently appealed to 
by some of Hale s friends in New Haven to persuade some 
competent Southerner to deliver in that city a lecture in defence 
of slavery on moral and sociological grounds. They were willing 
to pay liberally. The invitation was from anti-slavery persons, 
some of them relatives of Mrs. Stowe. I fixed on George Fitz- 
hugh, a lawyer of Port Royal, on the Rappahannock, who had 
written an able book on " The Failure of Free Society." Through 
my uncle, Judge Eustace Con way, the consent of Fitzhugh was 
secured, and he declined payment. In New Haven Fitzhugh 
was a guest of Samuel Foote at " Windy Knowe." The sub 
joined letter shows the gulf that yawned between the Northern 
and the Southern mind : 

PORT ROYAL, VA., 12 April, 1855. 

DEAR G. C., I am pleased at the interest you take in my book 
and lecture, and regret you could not accompany me. When I 
arrived at New Haven I learned that Wendell Phillips was detained 
in Boston by a suit and could not be in New Haven for a week. I 
postponed my lecture and visited Gerritt Smith at Peterboro in the 
meantime. Altho my lecture was double the usual length, and a 
metaphysical and statistical argument instead of an evening s enter 
tainment (as they are used to), it was often applauded, and listened to 
politely throughout. 

I remained two days thereafter, and received much attention from 
Professor Silliman and other leading citizens. Everybody seemed 
pleased me to meet me in the streets, and tho none agreed with me 
all liked to talk of the new lines I presented. Joseph Sheldon, Jr., 
the manager of the Lyceum, and Samuel Foote, Esq., uncle to 
Mrs. Stowe, were peculiarly kind. Sheldon said no lecture had 
ever occasioned so much talk and speculation. I met a sister 
of Mrs. Stowe, Mrs. Perkins, at Mr. Foote s, and was much pleased 
with her. 

But I was " carrying coals to Newcastle " in proving the " Failure 
of Free Society." They all admit that, but say they have plans of 



i g8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

social organisation that will cure all defects. Truly one half of them 
are atheists seeking to discover a " New Social Science," the other 
half Millennial anti-church, anti-law, and anti-marriage Christians, 
who expect Christ s kingdom on earth is about to begin. The most 
distinguished of them told me that as a perpetual institution he 
would prefer Slavery to Free Society as now constituted. You 
can t argue with such men, for they see facts in the future to sustain 
their views. I do not believe there is a Liberty man in the North who 
is not a Socialist. 

The papers abused me, charged me with nonsense, but published 
what I said about the Declaration of Independence, in which all the 
nonsense was Mr. Jefferson s. The Northern papers won t notice 
my book, and I am sure it is because they are not ready to 
answer it. 

Phillips declined to answer my lecture. His was an eloquent 
tirade against Church and State, Law and Religion. It was flat 
treason and blasphemy nothing else 

After you read this, please hand or send it to Rev. M. D. Conway, 
of your city. I am greatly obliged to him for his complimentary 
notice of me ; would also write to him, but this will answer the same 
purpose. 

I have already spoken of Samuel M. Janney, the most dis 
tinguished Quaker in Virginia. With him I consulted, and we 
framed a petition to the Virginia Legislature to repeal the law 
which forbade the teaching of slaves to read, and to restrict the 
arbitrary separation of families. A few influential signatures 
were obtained. A private reply came from a leading member of 
the Legislature, declaring that no such petition could be read 
in that body ; that all social systems have evils, and those of 
the South were no greater than the evils of other countries. My 
friend Daniel Goodloe, a North Carolinian resident in Washington, 
sent to the Legislature of his State a similar petition with many 
signatures, with a similar result. Ah, what naive days were 
those ! 

In May, 1850, when I first saw Daniel Webster and heard him 
sanction the concession of free territories to slavery, little did I 
dream that the great sombre man was inflicting grief on those 
who would one day be my beloved friends, and was bequeathing 
even to my obscure self a heavy burden. Before me is a 
correspondence which had then recently taken place between him 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 199 

and Dr. W. H. Furness, which has never been published. On 
January 9, 1850, Dr. Furness wrote to Webster : 

DEAR SIR, Will you pardon this intrusion and the boldness implied 
in these lines ? I deprecate the appearance of undertaking to offer 
counsel to one whom I regard with such sincere admiration. But 
I must bear the folly of the presumption, for I cannot resist the 
impulse that I have long felt to express to you, sir, my deep convic 
tion that if Daniel Webster would only throw that great nature which 
God has given him into the divine cause of human freedom, his fellow 
citizens, his fellow men, would witness such a demonstration of 
personal power as it is seldom given to the world to see. And yet no 
one would be more surprised than he. You have given us evidence 
which has filled us all with pride that you were made for great things, 
for far greater things than any office, but we do not know, sir, how 
much you are capable of. You do not know yourself, nor in the 
eternal nature of things can you ever know until, with a devotion 
that makes no stipulation for yourself, you give your whole might 
and mind to the right. You once said of a professional friend that 
" when his case was stated, it was argued." There is no man of whom 
this can be said with more entire truth than of yourself. If, taking 
liberty for your light, you cast your broad glance over the history 
and state of the country ; if seeing, as many think, as you yourself 
could not help seeing, how slavery has interfered, and is interfering, 
not with the property, but with the rights, the hearts of free men. 
you were then to tell the country, in that grand and simple way in 
which no man living resembles you, what you see, stating the great case 
so that it would be argued once for all and for ever, you would not 
only render the whole country, North and South, the greatest possible 
service, but you would find a compensation in yourself which even 
your great power could not begin to compute. The service of great 
principles is not a whit more beneficent in its results to others than in 
its influence on those who undertake it. They may possibly witness 
no results to others. They may subject themselves to personal in 
convenience, to suffering, but the redeeming, ennobling effect on 
themselves they cannot miss. We have seen again and again how it 
transfigures ordinary men. What, then, must be its effect on one 
whom Nature has made great. 

But I will not trespass any further. Accept, I pray you, sir, 
these few words as an expression of the heartiest personal interest of 

Yours faithfully and respectfully, 

W. H. FURNESS. 



2OO 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



To this came the following reply : 

WASHINGTON, February 15, 1850. 

MY DEAR SIR, I was a good deal moved, I confess, by reading 
your letter of the gth of January. Having great regard for your 
talents and character, I could not feel indifferent to what you said 
when you intimated there was or might be in me a power to do good 
not yet exercised or developed. It may be so ; but I fear, my dear 
sir, that you over-rate, not my desire, but my power to be useful 
in my day and generation. From my earliest youth I have regarded 
slavery as a great moral and political evil. I think it unjust, repug 
nant to the natural equality of mankind, founded only in superior 
power, a standing and permanent conquest of the stronger over the 
weaker. All pretences of defending it on the ground of difference of 
races I have ever contemned. I have ever said that if the black race 
is weaker that is a reason against, not for, its subjection and oppres 
sion. In a religious point of view I have ever regarded it and spoken 
of it, not as subject to any express denunciation either in the Old 
Testament or the new, but as opposed to the whole spirit of the Gospel 
and to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The religion of Jesus Christ 
is a religion of kindness, justice, and brotherly love. But slavery 
is not kindly affectioned ; it does not seek another s and not its own ; 
it does not let the oppressed go free. It is, as I have said, but a con 
tinued act of oppression ; but then, such is the influence of a habit 
of thinking among men, that even minds religious and tenderly con 
scientious, such as would be shocked by any single act of oppression 
or any single exercise of violence and unjust power, are not always 
moved by the reflection that slavery is a continued and permanent 
violation of human rights. 

But now, my dear sir, what can be done by me, who act only a 
part in political life, and who have no power over the subject of 
slavery as it exists in the States of the Union ? I do what I can to 
restrain it, to prevent its spread and diffusion. But I cannot disregard 
those oracles which instruct me not to do evil that good may come ; 
I cannot co-operate in breaking up social and political systems on the 
warmth (rather than the strength) of a hope that in such convulsion 
the cause of emancipation may be promoted. And even if the end 
could justify the means, I confess I do not see the relevancy of such 
means to such an end. I confess, my dear sir, that, in my judgment, 
confusion, conflict, embittered controversy, violence, bloodshed, and 
civil war would only rivet the chains of slavery the more strongly. 

In my opinion it is the mild influences of Christianity, the soften- 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 201 

ing and melting power of the Sun of Righteousness, and not the 
storms and tempests of heated controversy, that are, in the course 
of these events, which an All-wise Providence over-rules, to dissolve 
the iron fetters by which man is made the slave of man. The effect 
of moral causes, though sure, is slow. In 2,000 years the doctrines 
and the miracles of Jesus Christ have converted but a small portion 
of the human race, and among Christians even many gross and obvi 
ous errors, like this of the lawfulness of slavery, have still held their 
ground. But what are 2,000 years in the great work of the progress 
of the regeneration and redemption of mankind ? If we see that the 
cause is onward and forward, as it certainly is, in regard to the final 
abolition of human slavery, while we give to it our fervent prayers 
and aid it by all the justifiable means which we can exercise, it seems 
to me we must leave both the progress and the result in His hands, 
Who sees the end from the beginning, and in whose sight a thousand 
3 T ears are but as a single day. 

I pray you, my dear sir, accept this hasty product of a half hour 
of the evening and unread by the writer, as a respectful and grateful 
acknowledgment of your very kind and friendly letter. 

DANIEL WEBSTER. 

Twenty days after writing this letter Webster made the 
fatal speech. I heard Emerson ascribe it to his " profound 
selfishness," but it could not have been very profound, for it 
was plainly inevitable that it would be universally regarded as a 
bid for the presidential nomination ; and he could not fail to 
lose the confidence of both South and North. But the above 
letter to Dr. Furness suggests that more creditable motives may 
have animated the surrender to slavery. He speaks of " blood 
shed and evil war." Nobody in February, 1850, was suggesting 
openly such dire possibilities, but there is reason to think that 
some leading Southerners were privately hinting them, and they 
may have terrified Webster, who idolised the Union. However 
that may be, he gave the fatal blow to his idol. 

It was the Fugitive Slave Law that began the war. It could 
not have passed if Webster had refused his support. There was 
a fable in Washington that Webster and Clay were leaving a 
dinner-party, both tipsy ; Clay fell on the pavement, and Webster 
said : " Old fellow, I can t pick you up, but I will lie down by 
you." I always suspected that the story was invented at the 
time when the two most famous senators in the nation were 



202 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

seen side by side turning the whole government into a slave- 
catching institution. The anti-slavery men at the North were 
then few, but one of them was a more eloquent man than Daniel 
Webster namely, Wendell Phillips, who held up before the 
people of Massachusetts the senator of whom they were so proud 
as himself a slave, bought and sold in the South. But that shame 
passed out of sight before the horrors of the slave-hunting era. 
This brought slavery in its most odious form to the door of 
every family. Mrs. Stowe s romance was raised from a passing 
serial fiction into a photographic portrayal of what was actually 
going on in the South. It was the illustrations engraved by 
slave-hunters that made the enormous circulation of that book. 
Emotional sentiment against slavery was turned into rage. The 
Southern gentry had a reputation for " chivalry." But was 
this seizure of escaping people, some of them women, " chivalry " ? 
As a matter of fact, it was meant as chivalry that is, triumph 
over the North. The Southern " gentleman " brought back his 
fugitive as a trophy. He had incurred a personal danger and 
expense to humiliate the " Yankees " which he would not have 
incurred to recover a slave from another slave State. 

And the worst of it was that thousands of Southerners who 
held no slaves, or who were kind to them, were made accessory 
to those cruel invasions ; and, on the other hand, every man and 
woman in the North was made accessory to the slave hunt. 
Northern people might not recognise this siuation as poten 
tial war, but I did. I had once been a Southern " fire-eater " 
myself. 

The real issue could not be compromised in the country, but 
in my church it was compromised. After Daniel Webster s 
body was mouldering in the grave his soul had marched on in 
some eloquent Unitarian preachers notably in Dr. Dewey, who 
had said that rather than divide the Union he would " send his 
mother into slavery, ten thousand times rather go himself." 
He^was a personal friend of Webster, and possibly had in mind 
the " bloodshed and civil war," which frightened his idolised 
friend. He had been the favourite preacher in my Washington 
church, where the prevailing sentiment was that expressed in 
Webster s letter to Fur ness. 

Fletcher Webster and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Hayes, 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 203 

and George A. Abbot, resided under the same roof, and generally 
dined with each other. I was at times their guest Hayes and 
Abbot were members of my society and nothing could be more 
charming than these reunions. Slavery was never touched on. 
And so it was in other homes, where all felt themselves to be 
anti-slavery, but regarded the subject as settled. I knew that 
this peace was no peace. 

Very soon the disunion which Webster s sacrificial Unionism 
had fostered in the North was transferred to the Capitol. Congress 
met in December, 1855, amid fatal conditions. During the two 
months struggle for the speakership I was often in the House 
of Representatives, and felt that the evenly balanced forces repre 
sented a new North and a new South that had no respect for 
each other ; that the hostility between them was not political, 
but religious ; and that they could not meet except for an ex 
change of affronts because the real issue could not be discussed. 
The Constitution having decided that " Uncle Tom " should 
remain " held to service," the anti-slavery religion and the pro- 
slavery religion had no governmental tribunal before which it could 
be settled whether he should be free, but must fight a duel of 
" ayes and noes " as to whether he should be a slave in one 
locality or in another. The mere political view of slavery which 
framed the Constitution of 1787 and the compromise of 1850 had 
suppressed the moral issue with the pulpit plea, " Render unto 
Caesar the things that are Caesar s, and unto God the things that 
are God s " ; but now a generation had arrived in both North 
and South which declared " The negro does not belong to Caesar, 
but to God ! " " God by His providence and by His word has 
decreed the negro s slavery," said the New South. " God by 
our conscience and the Declaration of Independence demands 
his freedom," said the New North. These voices I heard behind 
the combatants disputing about the superficial incidents of their 
impasse still, small voices, as yet audible only in the distance, 
North and South but thunder-laden for the meeting of their 
rival Gods face to face. 

What the anti-slavery men in Congress did not realise was 
that there was a genuine pro-slavery religion, and that a defeat 
in Congress could not affect it otherwise than to render it more 
fanatical. As a Virginian I knew this ; and I knew also that 



204 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

there could be no peace until the anti-slavery conscience was 
free from all complicity with slavery. Moreover, the very fact that 
the Constitution foreclosed direct practical action against slavery 
where it existed rendered it imperative that every unofficial anti- 
slavery man should deal with the subject. So far as slavery 
was concerned, I had not failed to " bear my testimony," but 
in the beginning of 1856 the path before me was complicated by 
a conviction that the tendencies were towards war which I ab 
horred more than slavery and by reaching the conclusion that 
perpetual discord, if not war, could be escaped only by separation 
of North and South. 

There was no disunionist in my congregation, none in Con 
gress, probably not one in Washington except myself. Any 
utterance of that kind could not hope to find a responsive chord 
in any breast. I wrestled with my conscience, and knew that the 
task it demanded would lame me ; but it was stern ; for this 
work I had been nurtured in the South and then developed out 
of it. 

Having written the discourse, I submitted it to one person 
only Daniel R. Goodloe, the anti-slavery exile from North 
Carolina, an author of ability and judgment. He was a member 
of my church, and his satisfaction with the sermon encouraged 
me. The deadlock in Congress still appeared hopeless on January 
27, 1856, when the sermon was delivered, and a large number of 
congressmen had been attracted by the subject as announced : 
" The One Path ; or, the Duties of North and South." It was 
at once printed in Washington as a pamphlet and had a wide 
circulation. 

I began with an effort to reassure my congregation, declaring 
that I belonged to no party, and would make no partisan state 
ment ; but as a moral question, one affecting all humanity, the 
issue entered my pulpit whether I would or not. 

" In this country, where by the very nature of the representative 
system all action and influence of the general government involving 
as they do the happiness or misery, elevation or degradation, of men, 
women, and children, everywhere are shared by every taxpayer 
and voter, the moral responsibility resting on each man is tremend 
ous. What abject cant it is to say the North has nothing to do 
with slavery. Nothing to do with it, when the national flag cannot 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 205 

wave over a slave in this District, nor in any United States Terri 
tory, who is not a slave by Northern as well as by Southern 
Consent ! . . . 

We can all imagine two men of entire candour and courtesy the 
one Southern, and believing slavery right in itself ; the other Northern, 
and believing it wrong coming to an understanding on the subject, 
the common postulate being only that neither must himself do what 
he believes essentially wrong. 

Southerner. I believe the institution is best for the white and 
coloured races. 

Northerner. I make no doubt of your sincerity, but would like 
to discuss it. 

Sou. We may do that presently. But will you not allow that, 
so long as I hold that opinion, you have no right of any kind to 
illegally interfere with what I hold legally as property ? 

Nor. I do see that. The wrong is not in my detestation of 
slavery, nor my endeavour to inspire you with a like feeling, but in 
my attempting a right thing in a wrong way. 
Sou. Which is always an unsuccessful way. 
Nor. Now let us define the other side. I believe that slavery 
is the " wild and wicked phantasy " that Brougham called it ; or 
the " sum of all villainies " which Wesley pronounced it. You are 
connected with it sincerely, and, therefore, unless you have refused 
possible light, innocently ; but if I am connected with it, I sin. 
Sou. Certainly. 

Nor. If you and I have partnership in a slave, your innocence 
does not exculpate me. 
Sou. Certainly not. 

Nor. If you seek to make me a party to anything which I hold 
wrong, you are guilty, even though you believe it right, unless you 
can first persuade me also that it is right. 
Sou. It is so. 

Nor. And if our firm cannot remain without involving me in 
this wrong, my one path is out of it. The firm must be dissolved. 
Sou. Assuredly. 

Now, my friends, let us approach our national agitations thus 
simply and quietly. The people of the United States are a firm. 
Wherever the firm deals with slavery, all deal with slavery ; and the 
general government has dealt, and does now deal, with that local 
institution. I appeal to you, Southern men, is it not the only right 
thing for those who believe slavery to be sinful, whether it be really 
so or not, firmly to declare themselves free from all share in it, if 



206 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

not by your concession, then by whatever means they can ; but cer 
tainly to do it ? 

But, it is said, your fathers conceded this and that, and will you 
not stand by their compact ? 

If there be any compact, and it pledges me to what I feel wrong, 
shall I be judged by my father s light ? 

But if, in obedience to your conscience, you should injure this 
Union, you would cause great evils evils greater than slavery. 

Evils are not sins. We do not wish to rid ourselves of our share 
in national slaveholding as from an evil disease, but as a moral defec 
tion, as falsehood or theft would be. ... 

" Will you imperil the interests of thirty millions of whites for 
three or four of Africans ? " 

The adages, reply the others, are very good. Honesty, even in 
the old Roman sense, embracing all that is just and true to God and 
man, is the best policy. Right never wronged any man. . . . 

How, then, is Peace, which all love, and which is for the interest of 
all, to come ? 

Let St. James answer : By the wisdom which cometh from above, 
which is " first pure, then peaceable." Let every man in the Union 
only feel assured that he stands beneath the sheltering wing of his 
country a pure man. Let men cease to see the national flag dis 
coloured by what they believe dishonourable and wrong, and then 
be told they have nothing to do with it, when each stands with his 
share in the eye of God and man ! Then shall that unrest, which 
is the sign of the strong lash of Conscience, cease ! Then shall the 
word " slavery," that dirge of our woes, never more disorganise 
Congress, for it will be beyond Congress. I pity the Northern man 
who finds repose while his hand is binding slaves ; still more the 
Southern man who would desire to have him find peace in impurity- 

I know how large a number of pure men in the North this position 
will offend. But I am ready to reiterate that, when their personal 
responsibility for the bondage of a man anywhere is past, slavery 
only addresses them as other evils. 

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes told me that Mr. Justice Curtis 
listened to this sermon and said to him (Holmes) that he was 
much impressed by it. My argument, he said, was strong, and 
convinced him that the spirit of discord and violence in the 
country could cease only with the elimination of the issue of moral 
responsibility. 

A large number of members of Congress also heard this 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 20; 

sermon, among them the Hon. Horace Greeley of the New York 
Tribune. Horace Greeley had a way of closing his eyes when 
listening to any speech, and there was a story that some senator 
passed on the word " Wake up, Greeley ! " But the editor w r as 
quite awake, and the same day telegraphed to the Tribune a 
brief resume of the sermon, adding : "As Mr. Con way is a 
native of Virginia, and has spent nearly all his days in slave- 
holding communities, it will hardly be pretended that he does 
not know what slavery is. His discourse was very able as well as 
fearless, and was heard with profound interest by a most intelligent 
congregation. Mr. Con way expects to lose his pastorship because 
of it. I have heard him before speak incidentally in the same 
vein, but never before so clearly and fully." 

Two days later Horace Greeley was assaulted bv Congress 
man Rust of Arkansas as he was leaving the Capitol. 

The long struggle for the speakership, attended by many 
menaces, ended on February 2, with the election of N. P. Banks. 
He was a poor servile politician, really indifferent to the moral 
issue, and I was unable to share the satisfaction of the Republi 
cans as they were now beginning to be styled. 

Although the wounds received by Horace Greeley from 
Congressman Rust were not so serious as they might have been 
had the assailant been sober, they kept the editor indoors for a 
time, and I used to call on him. On February 9 he telegraphed 
to his paper : :c I was mistaken in stating that the Rev. Mr. 
Conway expected to lose the pastorship of the Unitarian Society 
here. That was the inference of a mutual friend, not Mr. Con- 
way s own apprehension. He preached as he thought just, and 
has no belief that his society will dismiss him for so doing." 

The committee of the church, however, in their annual 
(February) report, deeply deplored my discussing " in the pulpit 
a much vexed and angrily contested political question, and this, 
too, at a season of great political excitement." 

On February 17 I gave a discourse which was at once pub 
lished with the title " Spiritual Liberty." Taking for my text 
the words " Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ 
hath made us free," I appealed to all the historic traditions of 
intellectual and moral freedom. 

A peaceful time followed, during which I abstained from 



208 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the burning subject, but on April 15 I received from the com 
mittee a communication stating that the firmest and best friends 
of the church had become disaffected, that they apprehended 
disastrous results, and hoped earnestly that I would not persist 
in the course which had so unhappily divided them. They 
added : 

Should you determine otherwise, however, it is respectfully sub 
mitted whether it would not be better that our connection should 
cease at once, than that our hitherto united and harmonious congrega 
tion should be broken up ; that the small band who so long struggled 
to maintain and sustain a pulpit devoted to the cause of Unitarian 
Christianity should be scattered, and the high purposes of their 
organisation sacrificed to advance the purposes of this or that political 
faction. 

I cannot find that I made any reply to this. 

And now a curious thing occurred, in which the reporters 
did not fail to find an omen the southern wall of our old church 
bulged out and cracked ! The building was in a dangerous 
condition. It was impossible for the society, in its divided con 
dition, to collect the large sum needed for repairs. I felt certain 
that I could obtain the money needed from the Northern churches, 
and the committee having authorised me to do this, I set forth 
soon after on this expedition. 

I find by a letter in the New York Tribune of May 29, dated 
at Longwood, Chester County, Pa., May 22, that on that day I 
addressed the Progressive friends at their annual meeting. The 
letter says : " Lastly, I may mention a brave and manly speech 
upon slavery, by the Rev. Moncure D. Conway. Manifesting 
all possible charity toward the slave-holder, he nevertheless 
denounced the system, and pledged his endeavour against it in 
bold and refreshing terms." 

I had indeed taken it as my special task to plead for a more 
sympathetic consideration among anti-slavery people for the 
slaveholders suffering under their heritage. I remember well 
that assembly of liberal Quakers and Unitarian rationalists 
out there in the beautiful grove, and the warmth with which 
eloquent Lucre tia Mott responded to my speech. It was, 
during that meeting that Lucretia Mott and, I think, the father 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 209 

of Bayard Taylor, collected a considerable sum for repairing 
my church the first I obtained. 

But alas ! about the very hour of May 22 (1856), when I 
was pleading for tenderness toward the slaveholders, one of 
their representatives was raining blows on the head of a fore 
most champion of freedom, Senator Sumner ! 

Early in June I passed a day or two in Concord at Emerson s 
house, and a meeting was held in the town hall, where a sub 
stantial sum was raised for my church. Emerson appeared 
depressed. " It looks," he said, " as if in this matter of slavery 
the nation has gone a turn too far for recovery." 

On my way to Washington I stopped for a time with my 
friends Dr. W. H. Furness and his wife. They were particular 
friends of Sumner, and I desired to consult them with regard to 
the occurrence which had filled the North with exasperation and 
South Carolina with enthusiasm for its congressional bully. 

Dr. Furness and I went over carefully the recent speeches 
and retorts of Sumner, and found some words to deplore. These, 
however, were directed chiefly against Senators Douglas and 
Mason. The assailant of Sumner, Preston Brooks of South 
Carolina, had avenged an alleged insult to his uncle, Senator 
Butler, of the same State. The fury of Brooks was probably 
excited by a literary illustration he did not understand. Sumner 
described Butler as the Don Quixote of the new assault on freedom, 
and Douglas as his Sancho Panza, adding that as Don Quixote 
had his Dulcinea to defend, so the senator from South Carolina 
had the harlot slavery. There was nothing unparliamentary 
in this, but it was rococo and strained. My belief is that Brooks 
regarded the speech as an attack on the moral character of his 
uncle. 

Dr. Furness had remarked Sumner s unconsciousness of the 
personal bitterness of his retorts on insolent opponents. We all 
felt towards Douglas, for instance, as he did ; but it was an 
error, even in reply to a sneer, to describe that senator (of low 
stature) as a nameless squat animal filling the Senate with a 
bad odour. 

About this time the first convention of the newly organised 
Republican party met in Philadelphia. It nominated John C. 
Fremont for the presidency, on the simple issue of freeing the 



210 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

national government from all connection with slavery. Having 
in my discourse " The One Path " affirmed that the sole means 
of ending discord, I espoused the cause of Fremont. His popular 
title, " The Pathfinder," had for me poetic significance ; he was 
the standard-bearer on my " One Path." Filled with this en 
thusiasm, I attended a Fremont meeting at Morristown, near 
Philadelphia. The chief speaker was Senator Hale, and there 
I first heard the voice of Robert Collyer. The great-hearted 
Yorkshireman was clamoured for by his fellow working-men in 
the meeting, but being unknown to the chairman, it was after 
some delay that he was brought to the platform. He came up 
shyly, being still in the iron-works dress, but no garb could disguise 
his noble presence, and the enthusiasm excited by his speech was 
the great event of the evening. I set him down in my memorabilia 
as a risen and immigrant Ebenezer Elliot. 

On arriving in Washington I found the atmosphere charged 
with excitement. Fashionable society was making Brooks a 
hero. After his trial in the municipal court, which inflicted a 
moderate fine, he was received in the corridor by numerous ladies 
with kisses. I hastened to the room of Senator Sumner. He 
was confined to his bed, and I often visited him and read to him. 
It was most sad to see this great strong man suffering so much 
by withdrawal from the Senate in a great national crisis that he 
hardly thought of his physical pains, at times severe. 

One morning I found him very gloomy. He had extorted 
from his physician a statement concerning his case, and been 
told that although he would probably recover from his wounds, 
it could not yet be said with certainty that softening of the brain 
might not gradually ensue. I was shocked by the imprudence 
of such a revelation, so likely to bring on the cerebral trouble. 
" I do not mind pain," said Sumner ; " I am not afraid of 
death, but to live on as an idiot " and here his voice broke 
into sobs. 

My church had been closed six Sundays. The building had 
been made safe at least, and in it I gave on July 6 the sermon 
fatal to my ministry in it. My subject as advertised was " War, 
and its present Threatenings." After quoting authentic estimates 
of the Crimean War, then just closed, as to its cost in life and 
money, I denied to War any credit for the beneficent results 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 211 

ascribed to it by historians, and by some philosophers. Whatever 
benefit came was God s good, not War s. The benefits would all 
have been greater had they been achieved by love and peace. 
" That he who takes to the sword shall perish by the sword, as 
Jesus declared, is the necessary law, since it must be a thing 
earthly, and therefore transient, which calls around it earthly 
weapons." 

It must have been from my peculiar position as a Southerner 
who had known by experience the spirit if not the power of 
the python coiled around his native region, and now coiling 
around Kansas, that I saw the approach of civil war. In the 
presence of that fearful vision I spoke that morning. I felt 
certain that it would be my last sermon in the dear old church, 
and at times was so moved that I could hardly proceed. Crude 
and young, the fact of my being an anti-slavery Virginian gave 
weight to my words, and the crisis demanded that I should 
throw myself into the cause of Liberty and Peace in their conflict 
with Slavery and War. I subjoin some quotations : 

As yet the lesson is not learned. With the grief and tears of the 
[Crimean] war fresh upon us, with the blood of its slain thousands 
crying to us Pause, with the wailings of bereaved women and children 
filling the air, this nation is going steadily toward a war, which, 
should it come, will be the darkest, deadliest, and most awful which 
ever cursed this planet. All other war yields to civil war in terror. 
If one comes, and it seems inevitable where two sections have lost 
the last vestige of respect for each other, ten generations will scarcely 
see it concluded. . . . 

While these first red drops are falling let every man who will 
stand by the Prince of Peace unfurl that holy banner and stand by 
it for ever. Were Christ on earth there would he be found standing. 

Of course, it would be a waste of breath to appeal to Slavery 
for Peace. As well appeal to the fang of the serpent not to strike 
as to that poisoned fang of Hell, Human Slavery, not to send by any 
means it can command its deadly virus into the fresh young blood of 
Freedom. Why should we expect this monster to change its instincts ? 
Can the leopard change its spots ? Is there anything incompatible 
in buying and selling men and women made in the image of God on 
the block and a violation of the most sacred compacts which sec 
tions can form ? ... Is there anything unnatural when oppression 
and brutality toward the weak and helpless in Carolina become 



212 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

dastardly and cowardly assassination of the unforewarned and 
defenceless in Washington ? 

Its proper power to hurt each creature feels, 
Bulls use their horns and asses lift their heels. 

Slavery takes naturally to bludgeons or pistols. Freedom should 
as naturally take to reason, truth of thought, speech, and act, and 
that courage not animal which can bravely stand for God and Right 
and be shot down if that is the thing to be done. . . . 

. . . For every man in this country Slavery has a bribe at every 
pore, and a lash over all who will not obey its behests. ... I feel 
the presence of its great infernal power in this house to-day there, 
lurking among you, whispering, "Don t stand such preaching as this ; 
if you do your friends will turn away from you, and you will be called 
an abolitionist." It is up here whispering to me, " If you do not stop 
this preaching against Slavery, it will have its cudgel over your head 
your friends will be fewer even than they are now." Get thee 
behind me, cunning Devil ! . . . 

One thing is now for ever settled, that the subject is to be definitely 
dealt with. It is up now, and cannot be put down by any power, nor 
postponed. Henceforth no freeman is ever going to be quiet. . . . 

It cannot be ! Not until the resurrection morn of Freedom rises 
on our land shall we cease to weep and pray and work and watch by 
the Sepulchre. Already, oh my brothers, I hear the flutter of the 
Angel s wing as he comes to roll away the stone and break the seal 
of the Slave Power." 

The above quotations are given in justice to those who voted 
for my dismissal, and not because I feel satisfaction with the 
performance ; they are cited also as some illustration of the 
agony and confusion of that hour. They who have read the 
biography of William Lloyd Garrison the only real history of 
those times will understand how I could in January, 1856, 
declare myself of no party, and on July 6, 1856, declare voting 
to be solemn as prayer, when it could only mean voting for 
Fremont ; and how I could say a word for Disunion in the first 
and for the Union in the later sermon. Since my repudiation 
of parties a new party had been organised, and had nominated 
an anti-slavery man. He could be elected only by aid of the 
idolators of the Union, but it was certain that, if elected, Fremont 
would end the war peril in Kansas. Knowledge of the South 
assured me that his election would be followed by secession of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 213 

Slave States. The land of Freedom would thus be extended 
from the St. Lawrence to the Potomac and the Ohio. Disunion 
thus meant the true Union. Slavery could not last if the slaves 
had freedom within arm s length. 

Such were the illusions of those times. I had returned from 
talks with nearly all the anti-slavery leaders and preachers in 
the North filled with such visions, I passed to my pulpit from 
the bedside of Sumner, and never had I heard a suggestion that 
secession would cause bloodshed. The old Union was causing 
bloodshed, and secession was to arrest it instantly. Had I fore 
seen that the first success of the Republican party, at whose 
inauguration I assisted, would be followed by a war on seceding 
States, that discourse of July 6 on " War " would have been 
pointed by denunciations of the new party. 

Meanwhile in my own society at Washington a sort of secession 
had been going on for some months. The alarmed members 
had not given up their pews, but a considerable number had 
ceased to attend, while anti-slavery people had joined us, and 
these made more than half of the congregation that listened to 
the sermon of July 6. When my discourse had ended that morn 
ing I gave out the hymn as usual, and the organist played the 
tune, but the choir did not sing. It was a quartette of church 
members, and they were so troubled by my discourse that they 
could not sing. Harmony had left the old church for ever. The 
assembly sat for some moments in weird silence. I uttered a 
benediction from my heart, after which most of them slowly 
moved out, while others pressed up to grasp my hand. 

How often have I remembered the heaviness of that moment, 
and how often felt that even in that time of agony no word 
should have been uttered from my pulpit that could cause such 
dismay and strike our music dumb ! Well did Goethe say, 
" Youth cannot be an artist because youth cannot have repose." 

The committee summoned a meeting of the congregation for 
July 13, and submitted to it the question " whether he who 
thus persists in this desecration of his pulpit shall continue in 
the exercise of his function as pastor, under its authority and with 
its sanction." My sympathisers were present in full force. The 
struggle in the Capitol was represented in miniature in our church. 

At the meeting of July 13 the subject was referred to a special 



2i 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

committee. The services of the church were suspended until the 
first Sunday in October, and the meeting adjourned to that date. 
When the adjourned meeting was resumed, October 5, a stormy 
discussion occurred on a resolution dissolving my connection 
with the society. 

This resolution passed by a majority of five. Many of the 
congregation had not returned from their summer vacation, and 
the validity of the action was challenged by twenty-five members. 
The matter was embroiled by the question of what should be 
done with the money entrusted to me by Northern societies and 
individuals because of my stand against Slavery. My adherents 
resolved that if the decision could not be reversed a new Society 
should be started, and the Northern contributors for the repairs 
be requested to transfer their money (still in my hands) to the 
new Society. 

On October 7 I wrote to Emerson, who, to my question about 
the money raised at Concord, answered : 

CONCORD, October 16, 1856. 

MY DEAR SIR, I remember well your pleas for the " Church of 
Freedom " in Washington, made in our town hall last June. On that 
occasion, after your discourse, and after a statement made by one 
of your friends, Lieutenant-Governor Brown, touching the wants of 
the church, in which most of the champions of freedom worshipped 
and I think he said the only one in Washington where the civil 
freedom of all men was vindicated one of our citizens, W. S. Robinson, 
rose and put the question to you, what security had we that any 
moneys now to be contributed by us would go to a " Church of Free 
dom " (in the sense in which the term was used that night, that is, 
Anti-slavery) ? You answered that you would see that this money 
went to no other ; or somewhat to that effect. So Mr. Robinson tells 
me, and so other gentlemen say. 

We cannot recall the words, but all agree that the answer was 
satisfactory, and the contribution was made. 

The amount was small, but it was demanded and paid on the 
claim of Anti- slavery. 

Many years ago I had the happiness of obtaining from my old 
church, the " Second Church " in Boston, $300 for the benefit of 
this same religious society in Washington. 

I entreat you and them not to make us ashamed of our spending, 
by perverting the Church to the support of slavery. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 215 

Similar letters were received from Governor Andrew and 
other contributors, and I deposited all of the money in the hands 
of the church treasurer, to be held subject to my order. 

It would be unfair to those who voted to dismiss me from 
the pulpit not to add that their action was amid difficulties 
that can now hardly be realised. Amid an exciting presidential 
campaign it was impossible to detach the moral from the political 
conflict. It had been my main point in my first anti-slavery 
sermon that I belonged to no party, but since that a party had 
arisen to which I did inevitably belong. I might have done 
better to keep out of that Fremont campaign, but the Kansas 
struggle and the assault on Sumner had brought cyclones on 
Washington. We were all caught in the whirlwind. This struggle 
in our church represented nobody s calm sentiment or purpose. 
Washington was under menace ; congressmen went armed to their 
seats ; we were warned that our church would be mobbed. The 
old Southern and conservative members found themselves socially 
in an unpleasant position, and some others were in a sort of panic. 

But during all this conflict there were only three or four 
men who were angry with me personally, and not one woman. 
Nearly all continued to treat me with affection. 

Repairs of the church building were not as yet begun, and 
my Sunday discourses were given in a neighbouring hall. The 
effort to reverse the vote for my dismissal having failed, my ad 
herents requested me to establish a new society. The congrega 
tion was large, and a new movement mignt have been successful. 
But the responsibility of taking such a step was heavy, and I 
began to consult with my wisest friends as to an alternative 
suggested by a letter from Rev. William Henry Channing. In 
this letter from London (August 13, 1856), he said : 

That I have, in a generous sense, envied you the chance of preach 
ing in the capital during the last two seasons, I frankly own. With 
what joy and alacrity would I have exchanged with you my pleasant 
post in England ! Indeed, it was the bitterest disappointment of my 
ministerial life when I found that I was not to return to Washington, 
so clear did it seem that a good work was to be done. And I seri 
ously meditated whether I should not undertake an independent 
movement until I learned that you were the person who would be 
called there. Then I quietly yielded to what appeared to be with- 



216 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

out meaning to exaggerate a providential arrangement. For it was 
all but sure that a young Virginian, who had learned from deep ex 
periences the countless woes and evils of slavery, the weakness of 
slaveholding institutions, and the direct way to influence the judg 
ment and conscience of slaveholders, and who, surrounded by the 
prestige of Southern birth and connections, could not be suspected 
of prejudice and sectional passion, might speak and act with a power 
which I could not equal. But from that time I have followed you 
with intense solicitude, and you will not think me guilty of idle com 
pliment, in this stern and solemn season, when I add, with ever deepen 
ing confidence and respect. You have done well ; and, one among 
many, I thank you heartily. 

But now I must go on to say that, if I understand your views 
of the policy fitted for the crisis, I disagree with you. And pray 
set me right if I am wrong. Ever since, at the time of Texas annexa 
tion, it became clear that it is the fixed will of the people of the United 
States of America not to break up the Union, I have said, " There is 
but one work to be done there, and that is to make the Union free." 
The wise, just, honourable, and humane way of doing this as for 
five years and more I have taken every fit occasion to argue is by 
a common co-operative movement for emancipation, at the common 
cost. But the slave oligarchy has mistaken Northern magnanimity 
for meanness ; and, madly resolved to keep their pecuniary and 
political advantages, they now trust to the reactionary spirit of the 
age, and stake their all for a universal slave empire. The real ques 
tion at issue then forced upon the freemen of the United States of 
America is, " slavery extension or slavery abolition throughout the 
length and breadth of the land." All concealment is thrown away. 
All compromises are gone for ever. We must come to a settlement of 
the question once for all. Are we to yield to the slave oligarchy ? 
Are we to leave the Union or are we to subdue the " faction " ? We 
are not to yield one hair s breadth to their preposterous claim of 
" balance of power " meaning, thereby, submission to their usurped 
rule. If anybody leaves the Union, it must be the slaveholders ; 
and if they remain they must agree to change their institutions, neces 
sary time and aid for so doing being ensured. That is the " ulti 
matum " at which I arrive, after maturest consideration. Dissolu 
tion of the Union involves war inevitably without thereby necessarily 
destroying slavery. If there must be war then, let it be for the aboli 
tion of slavery within the Union. Henceforth this should be our 
watchword : " The Union shall be kept, and that Union shall be 
free. The Union of Freemen for ever ! " 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 21; 

Channing had occupied the pulpit for some months before his 
departure for England, and had warm friends in Washington. Al 
though I had personally known him but slightly, he was a friend 
of Emerson, and had been identified with the whole intellectual 
movement called " Transcendentalism." He was the nephew 
and biographer of the great Channing. That most eminent of 
all Unitarian leaders in America, who had lost his pulpit in Boston 
by his anti-slavery sermons, first proposed emancipation by pur 
chase of the slaves. Emerson had also advocated that plan. I 
myself, while at Cambridge, had repeatedly urged the same, 
but had discovered that it was too late : the Southern leaders 
had now adopted slavery as a religion, as well as the crucial test 
of their State rights doctrine. I had no hope for Channing s 
scheme, and as for his novel notion that disunion must involve 
civil war, I do not remember to have taken any note of it at all. 
The tone of Channing s letter influenced me more than his par 
ticular suggestions, and the hope that he might reunite the sun 
dered congregation by a new treatment of the subject induced 
me to open a consultation with my opponents, the large majority 
of whom were at heart unfriendly to slavery. Unable to meet 
in the unrepaired church, without any minister, the situation 
was to them painful. The hall in which my own adherents 
assembled was crowded every Sunday, a large number of con 
gressmen now attending ; there was no lack of support ; and 
letters from eminent men in all parts of the country brought me 
daily applause.* I nevertheless felt sore. Not being satisfied 

* One of the cheering letters received was the following : 

JEFFERSON, ASHTABULA Co., OHIO, August 18, 1856. 

DEAR BROTPIER, Giddings District sends greeting God bless you 
go on Look to your exemplars, Wesley, Luther, Socrates, Stephen, 
Christ. God will speed the right. 

The Avon to the Severn runs, 

The Severn to the sea, 
And Wickliffe s dust shall spread abroad 

Wide as the waters be. 

You may lose your pulpit for the truths you utter, but the warmest sym 
pathies of those who love justice, and the favour of a just God, a faithful 
testimony can never jeopardise. Yours in the patience of hope and the 



218 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

that I had achieved my task in the best way, I felt a certain un 
fairness in the judgments passed in some papers against those 
who dismissed me. I was also much embarrassed by holding the 
money contributed for the repair of our building by Northern 
congregations who refused to let their collections go to a church 
which prohibited free speech on slavery. 

Having reason to believe that leading members on the other 
side would consent to a compromise on Channing, I wrote to 
him, stating the situation and urging him to accept should an 
invitation be sent. Channing answered favourably, and I 
resolved to leave Washington. 

I received a letter from my friend, Mrs. Jared Sparks, warning 
me to beware of what she called " the seductions of martyr 
dom." About the same time I received a letter from my mother, 
who never knew that I had been driven out of Falmouth, where, 
apparently, an erroneous rumour had arisen that I had denounced 
my " fellow-townsmen." She wrote : 

Would it not be better for men of your cloth to follow the ex 
ample of Michael when you are contending for the freedom of your 
coloured brethren, and say to your opponents, " The Lord rebuke 
thee " ? I think this spirit would be more potent. I must also 
express my regret to hear of your denouncing your fellow-townsmen 
of Falmouth, who, though they have cause to be offended at your 
course, which is calculated to interfere with the domestic peace of 
their village, and has rendered us as a family objects of suspicion in 
their eyes, have yet rendered us such kindness and sympathy that 
I have ever felt a deep sense of wonder and gratitude at its extent ; 
and they have, I believe, as our neighbours, forborne to speak as 
harshly of what they think your errors as they might justly have 
done. Hard as I find it to say all this, I am obliged to add something 
still harder for me to say ; which is, that I think you had best not come 
here under the circumstances, as I cannot think you would be wel 
come to them, and I have no right to complain of it, though it takes 

labour of love. A. N. Wright, Albert S. Hall, N. L. Chaffee, J. D. Ensign, 
J. A. Giddings, J. C. A. Bushnell, N. O. Lee, W. Stickney, Sam l Plumb, 
W. C. Howells, J. A. Howells. 

W. D. Howells writes me : " Wright was sheriff, Chaffee judge, 
Giddings (old Gid s son) probate judge, Bushnell auditor, Stickney 
gospeller ; Hall, Ensign, Lee, Plumb, lawyers. The last two are my 
father and brother." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 219 

from me one of my chief solaces in life, that of having you with me. 
If you come, I think you would risk open insult, which would deeply 
grieve me. I am almost pining to see you. 

Such were the " seductions " of my martyrdom ! 

After my dismissal I had received an invitation from the 
first Congregational Church in Cincinnati. This I resolved 
to accept, and at the close of October gave my farewell sermon 
in Washington. My opponents, grateful for my olive branch, 
were nearly all present, and I had the satisfaction ,of seeing 
before me some picture of harmony restored after a year of 
strife. I took my theme from Mignon s song in " Wilhelm 
Meister," interpreting it as spiritual aspiration. In this con 
ciliatory sermon I made no complaint nor uttered any self- 
defence except it might be implied in my closing words : 

And now I am content. I leave it there. It is not so much 
whether the real voice of our church here be vocal or silent I know 
that the standard, where I leave it, is for Truth, Justice, Humanity, 
Freedom, and Endless Seeking. And as I give it back into his hand 
who entrusted me with it for a brief space, above all hard thoughts 
which you may have, above all misunderstandings, I hear one voice, 
which is enough : "It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall 
accomplish that which I please and prosper in the thing whereto I 
sent it." 

As I parted with tears from my people, a voice whispered, 
" Woe, woe, thou hast destroyed a beautiful world ! " They 
were the words of Mephistopheles, and I could say, " Get thee 
behind me " ; but the voice could not be so easily silenced. 

Although I have said much about my anti-slavery sermons, 
these were infrequent. My discourses were written for an edu 
cated and refined congregation, there being in it none of the 
so-called working-class and no negroes. I was fond of bringing 
critical studies to bear on half-mythical figures in the New 
Testament Jesus, Nathaniel, Judas, Mary Magdalene and 
evoking from them purely human characters. I had formed 
intimate friendships with thoughtful individuals who had passed 
or were passing through varied phases of faith or doubt, and 
whose faces surrounded me as I sat in my library devoting the 
light of every week-day to the next sermon. 



220 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



Ah, how sweet it all was, how happy ! I had no public 
ambition ; though I occasionally attended the levees of eminent 
official men, I generally came away remembering the words 
Emerson wrote me years before, " The earth is full of frivolous 
people who are bending their whole force and the force of nations 
on trifles." I did not envy them ; I would not have exchanged 
my dear little study for the White House. 

And now it was all gone ! In the afternoon of that Sunday 
on which I had spoken my farewell words, a number of friends 
called, and Hudson Taylor who, with his lovely wife, had given 
me such a beautiful home could not repress some reproach that 
I had by a few discourses shattered such happy relationship. 
His niece, Charlotte Taylor (now Mrs. Robley Evans), said that 
I had to obey my conscience. But Hudson cried, " Damn 
conscience ! " The tear in his eye did not blot out the oath, 
but embalmed it in my memory as the loving farewell of as 
faithful and generous a friend as I ever had. 

After all, the plan of getting Channing as my successor mis 
carried ; he required guarantees of support that in the society s 
condition could not be given. I had the sorrow of receiving 
from my friend Daniel Goodloe accounts of reactionary sermons 
by a Mr. Lunt and then a Mr. Heyer, which had driven nearly 
all of my friends from the church. 

Letters from my mother, written in November, 1856, reached 
me in Cincinnati soon after my arrival there. 

Your father was much gratified at your affectionate remembrance 
of him in your letter. For me, I rather think that the trials and 
sorrows of my children, if endured for conscience sake, are the most 
nourishing aliment for my parental love, even when I cannot myself 
see the necessity of the ultra position you have assumed. But " let 
every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, to his own master he 
standeth or falleth." is my doctrine, and I cannot presume to en 
croach on the rule which God has prescribed. ... I wished to have 
seen you in Baltimore on your return through to Washington ; and 
this I can do if you could pass through the latter part of this month ; 
but I cannot leave home at Christmas : I am the greatest slave here 
at any season to the servants of our household, who are raised in 
such a state of dependence of thought and action that they will not 
even make an effort to make their own clothing indeed, are too stupid 
to know how unless I direct them. Oh, what a thraldom to me 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 221 

the white slave mentally and bodily ! I often think that if some 
one were to arouse me some morning from my sleep with the intelli 
gence that every one had left the premises, I should feel such a sense 
of freedom and relief from responsibility (more oppressive as I grow 
older) that I should be heard singing Te Deum Laudamus could I 
but banish the knowledge that they would be in a state of extreme 
suffering and that their numerous babies would perish. If any 
abolitionist could know exactly what I have endured from over 
pressure of work for thirty negroes for the last month, and the worry 
I have had to get them to do any work for themselves, they would 
look upon me with greater pity than on them. ... I shall see little 
of you henceforth myself, but I hope you will one day have a home 
of your own where your sister and brothers can visit you if you 
get yourself a sensible, good, lady-like wife. 

So Buchanan is elected according to report. I feel little interest 
in politics, it is so low in its grade here, where every principle is 
involved in the narrow limits of party, till I feel ready to exclaim 
with a Scotchman on one occasion, " Knaves all." I care nothing 
about it, except I believe that Fremont s election would put links in 
the chain of slavery a hundred years long ; for disunion would ensue, 
and then the South would have pro-slaveryism carried to a revengeful 
extent, and so end all our efforts to keep their condition among us 
who wish to do what we can for them as comfortable as may be 
under existing circumstances. I think both ultra pro-slavery 
men and abolitionists of the rabid fire-and-fagot sort say in their 
hearts there is no God to " hear the groaning of the prisoner." God s 
mills grind slow, yet they grind exceeding small, and He will right 
what abuses He sees on the earth by His own means in this or any 
other matter. And His greatest reformations have ever been com 
menced through all time by the small human means, without know 
ledge of what their efforts were to lead to they only doing what 
duty personally required of them. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Settlement in Cincinnati The Dred Scott Decision Chief Justice Taney 
Stanley Matthews Hon. Alphonzo Taft Literary Club 
Theatres Visit of the Prince (now Edward VII.) Fanny Kemble 
Relics of the Visionaries Antioch College Hon. Horace Mann 
" Memnona " The Village " Modern Times " Germans in 
Cincinnati August Willich Judge Stallo My First Book Minis 
try Sacrament Emerson in Cincinnati Archbishop Purcell 
Lane Seminary. 

I ENTERED on my ministry in Cincinnati (First Congregational 
Church) in November, 1856. Cincinnati was full of excitement 
because of the presidential campaign in which slavery and 
freedom had for the first time confronted each other. My first 
discourse was given on November 9, the first Sunday after the 
election of Buchanan a bitter disappointment to us all. My 
discourse, printed by the congregation, bore the title " Virtue 
vs. Defeat," the text being " Add to your faith virtue." 

On March 6,1857, two days after the inauguration of President 
Buchanan, the Supreme Court gave its famous decision in the 
case of the negro Dred Scott. The decision was summed up 
popularly in the phrase, " Black men have no rights which white 
men are bound to respect." The decision was given by Chief 
Justice Taney, sprung from an old Maryland family, and it suited 
the Republicans that the odious sentiment should be ascribed to 
him and the consenting justices personally, the new party being 
founded on an opposite interpretation of the Constitution. But 
the Chief Justice had simply interpreted the constitutional con 
cessions to slavery by a historical reference to the ideas prevailing 
at the time when the Constitution was framed concerning the 
black race, which for more than a century had been regarded as 
beings of an inferior order, politically and socially, having " no 
rights which white men were bound to respect." The decision 
did not applaud this sentiment of the colonies, but it was circu- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 223 

lated in vast quantities throughout the South as a political 
document. 

Cincinnati was renowned for its jurists. Among these were 
Judge Hoadly, afterwards governor of Ohio ; Alphonzo Taft, 
afterwards U.S. attorney-general ; and Stanley Matthews, after 
wards of the U.S. Supreme Court. Hoadly and Matthews had 
been Democrats, but strongly anti-slavery. Hoadly separated 
himself from the Democratic party on account of its pro-slavery 
proclivities, but Matthews was appointed U.S. district-attorney 
by Buchanan, and was as a " Lost Leader." Judge Hoadly and 
Alphonzo Taft were active members of my society ; I was inti 
mate with them and their families. Neither of these learned 
men regarded the Dred Scott decision as legally sound, and I 
was guided by them. Later studies led me to the conclusion 
that though the decision rightly interpreted the bearing on slavery 
of the concessions made to it in the Constitution, these were 
not due to considerations of negro inferiority, but that the 
majority of the Convention of 1787, while anti-slavery, were 
forced by the overwhelming necessity of forming a Union for 
defence to yield to South Carolina and Georgia, which refused 
to enter unless those concessions were made. But the decision, 
which made slavery virtually the law of the land, was as the 
trump of Judgment Day. Thousands of negroes in the northern 
States broke up their homes and fled to Canada, many of these 
being from Southern Ohio, so accessible to Kentucky kidnappers. 

Days of judgment are prolific of misjudgments. The much- 
abused Chief Justice Taney gained his first fame at the bar by 
defending (1811) the most brilliant Methodist preacher in Mary 
land, Jacob Gruber, arrested for denunciations of slavery likely 
to incite insurrection. In his argument Taney (aged thirty- 
four) declared slavery " a blot on our national character." And 
probably he believed the same when he held up in the Supreme 
Court a mirror that revealed the vastness and blackness of the 
blot, not to be effaced by smashing the mirror. In Cincinnati 
the same kind of history was repeated in the case of our brilliant 
young lawyer Stanley Matthews, whose Quaker ancestor in 
Virginia had got into some trouble like that of Gruber in Maryland 
by his hostility to slavery. Stanley came to Cincinnati from 
Kentucky, and edited a vigorous anti-slavery paper, the Cincinnati 



22 4 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



Herald, which contributed largely to make the thinking people 
hostile to slavery in that very community where as U.S. district- 
attorney he was compelled to sustain the decrees of the slave power 
at Washington. Among these was the Fugitive Slave Law. which 
Matthews had repeatedly violated. Cincinnati had in the house of 
Levi Coffin, a Quaker, the southmost station of the " Underground 
Railway," by which fugitive slaves were expedited to Canada, 
and in this work Matthews had assisted. But not long after his 
appointment by the President a tragical case occurred. A young 
journalist named Conolly had concealed in his room a family of 
negroes escaped from Kentucky, and in the attempt to recover 
them a Kentuckian was killed. Stanley Matthews had to prose 
cute Conolly. It was the first speech I ever heard from him, 
and although it was dreadful to see a grand man out of his place, 
his candour and his pain drew me to him. I, too, was of Southern 
birth and knew the temptations of a convert. During the trial 
the Quaker, Levi Coffin, was examined, and in answer to a 
question about a certain room for hiding fugitives, he said, 
" Thee must remember all about it, friend Matthews." I was 
not present when this was said, but was told that Levi Coffin s 
answer raised much laughter, and that Stanley Matthews blushed. 
By some instinct I refrained from attacking Matthews. He was, 
I felt, a fine man in eclipse, and would shine out again, as he did. 
I do not remember meeting him personalty in Cincinnati, but 
when I met him after he became a justice of the Supreme Court, 
he was very cordial and assisted me in my " Life of Randolph." 
Among the changes of those times in Cincinnati the most 
remarkable, perhaps, was that of Alphonzo Taft. He was by 
temperament conservative, also unambitious, finding his happi 
ness in his family and his studies. He was a fairly typical 
Massachusetts man, and a kinsman of Emerson, whom he did 
not know, but resembled in countenance. Alphonzo Taft was 
reluctantly drawn into public life ; he felt the aggressions of 
slavery in Kansas and the Dred Scott decision as a summons to 
his conscience to bear his part in saving Liberty.* 

* Alphonzo Taft was so pre-eminently a man of peace, abhorrent of war, 
that when President Grant appointed him Secretary of War it excited 
merriment in Cincinnati, and fables were invented about him. It was 
said that one day when the President called at his office, and asked how 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 225 

A sermon given soon after my settlement in Cincinnati (text : 
" The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minis 
ter ") opens with a legend which I ascribed to a Father of the 
Desert, who daily gave alms to the poor at the convent gate. 
In his cell Christ appeared to him with face and attitude ac 
cordant with church traditions, and indistinct. " Sometimes he 
doubted if it was there ; then it would glow a little." As he 
gazed with rapture the bell sounded the hour when the needy 
would await their alms at the gate. But how could he leave the 
one heavenly vision of his lifetime ? Yet he could not keep out 
of his thoughts images of the sufferers, and bade the Christ 
vision farewell with tears. When he had relieved the haggard 
men, women, and children, it was night ; but as he was about 
to strike a light his cell was filled with a celestial brightness, and 
there stood the form clear as the sun, no longer like the church 
pictures, but with the tender smiles and eyes bent on him ; and 
as he fell before the stupendous vision the divine one lifted him, 
and said, " Hadst thou not gone, I had gone indeed ! " 

The legend occupies two pages of the discourse on " The 
Minister " in my " Tracts for To-day " (January, 1858). I 
cannot discover whether it has any ancient basis or was my own 
invention. It marked the period when, following my Methodist 
" Messiah," the Unitarian Christ of Cambridge professors was 
replaced by a living human Jesus learned at the feet of poor 
blacks. The tale pleased my people, and I condensed it in 
a sermon prepared for Nahant.* 

affairs were getting on, the Secretary shook his head and said there were 
underhand dealings. Grant, being alarmed and demanding particulars, 
Secretary Taft showed him a bill just sent in by officers, among the items 
being considerable amounts for " grape " and " shell." " I saw through 
it at once," said the Secretary. " It is the disguise of carousals : grape, 
that is champagne ; shell, oysters on the shell, crabs, etc." 

* I was a guest of the Longfellows at Nahant, and the poet probably 
regarded the fable as a genuine monastic legend, for it afterwards ap 
peared in his " Tales of a Wayside Inn," with the title " The Legend 
Beautiful." I would indeed be gratified to know that any legend exalting 
service to man above worship of God exists in Catholic hagiology. The 
longing for some such story is shown in Benjamin Kidd s description of 
" The Vision of Sir Launfal " a pure invention of Lowell as " always 
the typical legend of the church ! " My belief is that my story of the 
monk, used also by Wendell Phillips, who was in my audience at Nahant, 
P 



226 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Cincinnati was the most cultivated of the western cities. A 
third of the population being German, there were societies 
devoted to music, and in that art the city was ahead of all others 
in America except Boston. There was a fine orchestra which 
gave symphony concerts, and a "St. Cecilia- Verein " which 
sang classical pieces rarely heard elsewhere. There was an 
admirable literary club, which met every week to converse and 
regale itself with squibs, recitations, cigars, and Catawba wine- 
To it belonged young men who afterwards became eminent 
figures in the world : Rutherford Hayes, President of the United 
States ; Noyes, a distinguished general and Minister to France ; 
A. R. Spofford, librarian of Congress ; Judge Stallo, Minister to 
Italy, Judge James, Judge Manning Force, and others. There 
was a good city library, with a Lyceum that had courses of 
lectures during the winter and enabled us to listen to the most 
famous public teachers. Emerson, Holmes, Agassiz, H. W. 
Beecher, Wendell Phillips, had not yet been superseded in western 
halls by vaudeville shows. There was a grand-opera house, and 
we had annually several weeks of opera or operatic concerts. I 
remember Patti singing there in a troupe when she was a small 
girl. There were two good theatres, the National and Wood s. 
The elder Sothern acted at Wood s when he was as yet unknown 
to fame, and I remember well the uproarious laughter he excited 
as the petty thief (" The Kinchin ") in Buckstone s " Flowers of 
the Forest." * There were fair stock companies at both theatres, 
and they played good English comedies and melodrama. 

Society in Cincinnati was gay. There were picnics, dances, 
charade-actings, tableaux. The masquerade balls were as 

was a coinage out of my own experience. There was, however, in Long 
fellow s poem no use made of what was to me an important feature of the 
fable ; namely, the increased brightness and reality of the figure of Jesus 
after the monk had ministered to the needy. 

* In after years I knew Sothern well in London ; he remembered his 
early visits to Cincinnati, and wrote down for me the little speech of 
The Kinchin " after he was caught. 

" Hevery ones against me. A svell General he goes hinto a Henemies 
country, and kills hevery one he meets and burns their Willages and 
they cover him with Stars and blows a trumpet for him ! Hi just collar 
a hen or a hankechief They blows no trumpet for me they vhips me 
and gives me ancuffs to carry Its shameful it is it quite urts my feelings." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 227 

brilliant as those of Europe. The city was celebrated for its 
beautiful ladies, and they knew how to dress well. When the 
young prince, now King of England, was visiting American cities 
it was announced that he could dance only with ladies selected 
for him. In many places the ladies appointed for this honour 
were those with kindred of high official rank. Some wag estimated 
that the collective ages of the prince s partners in one city was 
900. In Cincinnati the committee decided that at the ball in 
Pike s Opera House, partners for the prince should be selected 
with reference to their beauty. This, of course, was fatal to 
the committeemen, who in a city of over 200,000 had to decide 
which were the eight or ten most beautiful ladies ; and it is to 
be hoped that the prince appreciated the self-sacrifice which gave 
him a succession of charming partners. My bride and I danced 
in one of the stage quadrilles near him, and I remarked the 
pleasure with which he looked on the vast array of beauties. 
Unfortunately the first young lady with whom the prince at 
tempted to waltz could not conform with his steps nor he with 
hers ; they had been taught different styles ; and after that the 
ladies assigned for waltzes with him had the satisfaction of con 
versing with the blond and boyish prince. He was affable, and 
so were the gentlemen with him. The Duke of Newcastle said 
to a group of gentlemen, " Who would have thought that you 
republicans could find pleasure in the sight of royalty ? " " Ah, 
sir," replied one, " we do not live close enough to royalty to 
see its faults." At that time the dress-coat and white cravat were 
not fully in fashion in any American city except for bridegrooms 
and groomsmen. An English correspondent, who travelled with 
the prince s suite, remarked in a published letter the absence of 
evening dress among men at our ball. I believe it was the perusal 
of such criticisms that established the present fashion in America, 
where the evening dress is now rather more de rigueur than in 
England. 

Into all the literary and artistic movements in Cincinnati I 
threw myself with ardour. I was adopted in the clubs, and wrote 
criticisms of the classical concerts, the picture exhibitions, the 
operas and plays. Though my criticisms were anonymous, it 
became well known who wrote them, especially after some of my 
interpretations of Beethoven s Symphonies were sharply handled 



228 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

by a writer whose judgments in such matters had previously 
been final. 

In Cincinnati I found myself for the first time able to indulge 
my passion for the drama. Although at Cambridge I sometimes 
trudged over to Boston to enjoy the plays, the opportunities 
were barely enough to appetise me ; in Washington the theatre 
was poor ; but in Cincinnati I attended the theatre so much as 
to excite remark. A dancing and theatre-going preacher was 
previously unknown there. Puritanism was well represented 
among the early settlers in Cincinnati. Mrs. Trollope, the Eng 
lish author, who went to Cincinnati in 1828 and resided there 
two years, " trolloped " the place in her book on America on 
account of its provincialism, her satire being keen on the horror 
excited by the performances of two French figurantes who visited 
the city. Cincinnati had got fairly over all that, but it was still 
expected of religious ministers to frown on the theatre. Regard 
ing that institution as one of the most important for the culture of 
the community, I gave a discourse on this subject (June 7, 1857), 
comparing the clerical enemies of the theatre to Jonah demanding 
the destruction of Nineveh. 

The subject of my discourse having been, as usual, announced 
in the papers, a large audience came ; it was said that every actor 
and manager was present . The discourse was published in pamph 
let form and widely circulated. I became thenceforth a sort of 
chaplain to the actors, conducting their marriages and funerals, 
and whenever I attended any theatre I was invited into a private 
box. After my marriage to a member of my congregation, 
the actors and dancers were occasionally entertained in our 
house. 

But the most important response received was a letter from 
my mother stating that the pamphlet on the theatre had been 
read aloud in the family by my father, who on closing it said 
" I am not prepared to object to one word in it." 

Under the signature of " Optimist," I wrote four letters on 
Art for a leading paper, calling attention to the fine or faulty 
characteristics of our actors. The originality and self-restraint 
of Matilda Heron, the delicious fun of Davidge in farce, the 
melodramatic skill of our frequent visitors, Mr. and Mrs. Conway 
(no relations of mine) were discussed, and one letter was a moral 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 229 

defence of the ballet. In the letter on Tragedy I find a para 
graph about Rachel, seen in New York : 

Rachel created more enthusiasm in an audience than any other 
person I have ever seen on the stage. She was an ever-revolving 
electric generator, and each individual sat with the wires in his hand. 
But her art of arts was to seize on little groups of people about the 
house, look straight into their eyes plaintively, until she awoke for 
herself, personally, the sisterhood of each woman and the knight 
hood of each man. I say personally, for Rachel had no existence 
outside of the character she was personating. She was as a sheathed 
sword, never drawn out but by some hand, and only great as the 
hand which wielded her was great. She made pain a pleasure ; one 
longed to suffer after seeing her in a tragedy. 

One of the most beautiful things I ever saw on the stage 
was a " morality " brought to Cincinnati by the English actress 
Mrs. Conway, " The Prodigal Son." As the Prodigal she proved 
herself a true artist, especially in the return scene. 

It would be ungrateful not to mention Murdoch, the first 
scholarly interpreter of leading characters of Shakespeare s 
comedies I ever saw ; and Hackett, whose admirable Falstaff 
was lionised through the country, as "Lord Dundreary" was 
later. By the way, So them told me that in " Our American 
Cousin " only a few words were originally assigned to Dun 
dreary, and that the character was cumulatively created by his 
" gags." 

Fanny Kemble, whom I used to meet at the house of the 
Longfellows, gave her readings in Cincinnati. In our talks she 
surprised me by the sharpness with which she opposed my claims 
for the theatre as a profession. When I alluded to the fame of 
the Kembles, she pronounced the profession suitable enough for 
men, but not for women. It was, she said, a life of ostentation, 
necessitating display of costume and person inconsistent with 
fine feminine qualities, and so forth. In vain I spoke of actresses 
well known in Cincinnati society Julia Dean, Charlotte Cushman, 
Anna Cora Mowatt (Mrs. Ritchie, who wrote, such an attractive 
book about stage life). Fanny Kemble was irreconcilable. On 
my part I could not see any great difference between the career 
of those ladies and that of the dramatic reciter, amply displayed, 
and concluded that Fanny Kemble had been somewhat soured 



230 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

by her unhappy marriage with a Southern planter, also by the 
gossip about her. When I asked her if she had seen a certain 
article on one of her readings, she said, " I never read the papers, 
being liable to find in them my own name." 

At Cincinnati I seemed for the first time to know something 
of all America. Our city was popularly styled " the Queen of 
the West," but a Paul might have named it the Athens of 
the West, for every " new thing " found headquarters there. 
The edifice (" The Bazaar ") which Mrs. Trollope erected 
there thirty years before for encouraging the employment of 
women as shopkeepers, then unknown, after being used suc 
cessively as a dancing school, an eclectic medical college, 
and a hydropathic establishment, had become a female 
medical college ; it was the home of varieties of dreamers 
and reformers until it housed convalescent Federal soldiers 
during the civil war. 

The presiding genius of " The Bazaar " was a certain Dr. 
Curtis an idealist poetically related to the quaint house whose 
wide stairway, mounting from the threshold to the last storey, so 
many visions had ascended. " I sincerely believe," wrote Mrs. 
Trollope, " that if a fire- worshipper or an Indian Brahmin were 
to come to the United States and could preach and pray in 
English, he would not be long without a respectable congrega 
tion." Her Cincinnati edifice was always for me the symbol of 
a living fire-worship more consuming than she imagined. The 
West was hospitable to every new creed or social experiment, 
while its practical necessities furnished the severest test of values. 
One after another pilgrims had come French colonists of the 
Scioto and the Miami when the nation was founded ; George 
Rapp, the shoemaker of Wiirtemberg, with his company of 
" Harmonists " ; Robert Owen and his New Harmonists in 1823; 
and Fanny Wright (1825), who colonised free negroes on two 
thousand acres in Tennessee to prove them capable of civilisation. 
The only experiment that failed through persecution was that of 
Fanny Wright to help the victim race. The others failed by 
reason of the actual conditions of the West. But remnants of 
all of them had found some nest in Cincinnati. An attractive 
German lady had in her drawing-room a portrait of George Rapp 
(who died in 1847) surrounded with evergreen, as a kind of shrine. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 231 

She had been brought over with the Rappites in childhood, and 
cherished the remembrance of that gentle soul, training her 
children in his spirit. From her, and from some who had known 
Robert Owen, and many who had known the brilliant Fanny 
Wright, I learned much about them all. They were all liberal 
people, rarely able to conform with the creeds and usages around 
them. Current fiction was pale for me beside the narratives 
gathered from these sweet visionaries who were still following 
the dreams of their youth. I there read for the first time Fanny 
Wright s book " A Few Days in Athens," and some of the ad 
dresses which charmed large audiences in Cincinnati. Many a 
time have I joined in the pilgrimage to her tomb in the cemetery 
near Cincinnati.* 

At that time an experiment had begun at Yellow Springs, 
which interested me deeply co-education of young men and 
women. The sect called " Christians " had built a college there, 
naming it " Antioch," but their enterprise having failed, the 
building was purchased by the Unitarians and the institution 
placed under the Hon. Horace Mann. Horace Mann was the 
most eminent educator who has ever appeared in the United 
States, and his reports and writings, and his life written by his 
widow, constitute an important chapter in educational history. 
Mrs. Mann was a sister of Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Miss 
Elizabeth Peabody. Early in 1858 I visited Yellow Springs, stop 
ping at its one inn, in which the only other guest was a beauti 
ful woman, and one of rare intellectual power. She was the 
only one left of " Memnona," a community which had built the 
house converted to an inn, and gave me useful information about 
" Memnona." The glen near by and the warm morning invited 
me to a stroll beside the clear brook, which flows with frequent 
cascades through a mile of green banks and wild flowers. Sud 
denly I came upon a troop of young ladies, each carrying a book 
and a botanical box. One of them, Rebecca Shephard (afterwards 
Mrs. Haven Putnam), I had met ; she introduced me to the pro 
fessor a handsome lady, who invited me to participate in their 

* A biography of this noble lady is a desideratum in both English and 
American literature, which I have some reason to hope will be supplied 
by the poetic pen of her cultured kinsman, the Rev. William Norman 
Guthrie, rector of Fern Bank, Ohio. 



232 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

exercises. The glen was their recitation-room in spring for 
botany and geology. 

I gained from the lady professor (married) assurances of 
the refining influences of " co-education " on both male and female 
students. No scandal had ever been heard of. The young ladies 
had weekly receptions in their separate residence building, and 
I had the good fortune to be present at one of them. There was 
excellent music and theatricals, and the presence of the pro 
fessors did not at all interfere with the freedom and enjoyment 
of the young people. 

Next morning (Sunday) I heard an eloquent address by 
President Mann in the college chapel, and excellent music from 
a well-trained choir of students. 

Horace Mann was radical in politics and a rationalist in 
religion, his friend and prophet being Emerson. The Puritan sur 
vived in his ethics, and was evoked by the proximity of " Mem- 
nona," founded by the once famous Dr. T. L. Nichols. Although 
the community had dissolved, probably because of Horace Mann s 
denunciations, he was still excited on the subject. An able 
journalist in Cincinnati, Henry Reed, was ridiculing him sharply 
on account of the rumoured severity of discipline at Antioch. 
He and Mrs. Mann felt profoundly their responsibility for the 
success of this experiment in co-education, of which grievous 
prognostications existed. They themselves regarded the innova 
tion as perilous, and no doubt the anxieties shortened his life. 
The fear then was that there would be too much courtship, and 
rash marriages, between the students ; but now (1904) some 
complain that co-education gives girls an unfortunate disinclina 
tion for love affairs and marriage. 

I do not know that I can do better than insert here my notice 
in the Dial of May, 1860, of a book printed in Cincinnati at the 
time entitled " Esperanza : My journey thither and what I found 
there." I remember well the pains I took to discover the facts 
concerning " Memnona " and to treat with justice the delicate 
subject, and quote a few items that possess some interest : 

These reflections have been suggested by the perusal of " Es 
peranza " the Land of Hope : a work written on the gospel of 
Free Love. Perhaps the name of the author might as well have 
been on the title page, since it is quite generally indicated that it is 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 233 

the work of Dr. Nichols, late of the community of Memnona, at Yellow 
Springs, Ohio, later still of the Roman Catholic Church. In what 
light that church will regard the publication of this novel from the 
pen of its convert we are not prepared to say. We have heard that 
the author had concluded his account of Esperanza by introducing 
a Catholic Father who converts them all to the Mother Church ; 
and that the publisher, having some authority in the premises, is 
responsible for the substitution of the weak and diluted Dream which 
concludes the book, in which a Spirit inculcates the one love theory so 
feebly as to make the free love portions of it all the more dangerous. 
" Memnona," when in its most flourishing condition, numbered 
about twenty inmates. They were generally Eastern and English 
people, and, we have been credibly informed, were persons who had 
met with disappointments and grief in the life of the affections 
the unrequited or the divorced. It was represented to the country 
chiefly through the terrible denunciations of Horace Mann, whose 
imagination, excited by its proximity to Antioch College, pictured 
it as, to use his own words, "the superfcetation of diabolism upon 
polygamy." This community, however, had reason to know that 
Mr. Mann was mistaken ; and that, so far from " Memnona " being a 
seat of sexual license, it inaugurated in its actual life the asceticism 
and celibacy which afterwards carried its leading characters into the 
Church of Rome. Daily confessions and penances were prescribed 
and obeyed. And when through pecuniary embarrassments for the 
community ruined everyone who made any investment in it and 
the jealousies of human nature, this false thing burst like a bubble, 
the eight leading persons (including those named in " Esperanza," 
Harmonia, Vincent, Angelo, Eugenia, and the beautiful Melodia) 
immediately went into the Romish Church. Melodia (Miss H.) is 
now a nun in Cuba. 

Co-education at Antioch had not grown out of any theory. 
The plain Western farmers wished their sons and daughters to 
have a good education without sending them East ; the various 
communities wished to obtain good teachers, male and female, 
without getting them at heavy cost from regions unacquainted 
with their conditions. That tall, slender, Horace Mann, with his 
pure, intellectual face beneath its crown of white hair, was 
steadily giving his heart s blood to achieve a final triumph for 
American education. He died two or three years after under 
taking that work. Antioch flourished for a time under Thomas 
Hill, afterwards president of Harvard, and its subsequent decline 



234 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was really due to the success of its principle. Other colleges 
and state universities, now educating persons of both sexes, first 
got their idea and courage from the experience of Antioch and 
the leadership of its first president, who has a fitting monument 
in the Horace Mann Hall at Columbia University, New York. 

Among the many letters that I received from out-of-the- 
way people and places, one was dated at " Modern Times, N.Y." 
It seemed to have come from some place in Bunyan s dreamland. 
Writing to a friend in New York, I inquired if he knew anything 
about such a place. "It is," he answered, " a village on Long 
Island founded on the principle that each person shall mind his 
or her own business." The place seemed even more mythical 
than before, but one evening when I had been addressing some 
working-men on the relations between capital and labour, a 
stranger of prepossessing appearance approached me and said, 
" If you ever visit Modern Times you will find out that the 
troubles of labour come from the existence of money." Where 
upon he disappeared. 

During my next summer vacation I visited New York, was 
ferried over to Brooklyn, and learned that by travelling one or 
two hours on the railway down Long Island I would come to 
" Thompson s Station," and five or six miles off would find 
Modern Times. It was twilight when I reached " Thompson s," 
and there was no means of reaching the village I sought except on 
foot. That did not matter, for my valise was light, but the road 
was solitary, sometimes forked, the forest dense, and it became 
quite dark. At length, however, I reached a more open space, 
the moon gave some light, and I met a woman who said I was 
close upon the village. I asked if there was any hotel, and she 
replied, " None that I know of," passed on quickly, and left me 
to consider that more interest in other people s affairs might 
occasionally be desirable. It was not yet nine, but the street I 
entered was silent. I had with me a letter once received from 
Modern Times, and on enquiry found at last the founder of the 
village, Josiah Warren. He gave me welcome, and there being 
no hotel, and money not being current in the village, I was taken 
to the house of a gentleman and lady, provided with a supper and 
an agreeable bedroom, whereof I was in much need. The lady 
of the house was beautiful, and startled me by an allusion to a 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 235 

Utopian village in one of Zschokke s tales. " You will not find 
us," she said, " a Golden thai ; we are rather poor ; but if you 
are interested in our ideas, you may find us worthy of a visit." 
I have idealised this lovely woman, and indeed the village, in my 
" Pine and Palm," but her actual history was more thrilling than 
is there told of Maria Shelton, and the village appears to me in 
the retrospect more romantic than my Bonheur. 

Josiah Warren, then about fifty years of age, was a short, 
thick-set man with a serene countenance, but somewhat restless 
eye. His forehead was large, descending to a full brow ; his 
lower face was not of equal strength, but indicative of the mild 
enthusiasm which in later years I found typical of the old English 
reformer. He was indeed one of these, and I think had been 
in Robert Owen s community at New Lanark. He had, however, 
an entirely original sociology. Convinced that the disproportion 
between wages and the time and labour spent in production 
created the evils of drudgery and pauperism, luxury and idle 
ness, he determined to bring about a system of " equitable com 
merce," by which each product should have its price measured 
by its cost. If it were a shoe, for example, the separate cost of 
leather, pegs, thread, etc., was to be estimated, and the time 
taken in putting them together, and the sum would be enough 
to decide the relative value of the shoe in other articles which the 
shoemaker might require. With this idea in his mind, he invested 
what little capital he had in a shop in Cincinnati, where he sold 
miscellaneous articles somewhat under their prices in other 
shops. These shopkeepers broke up his establishment by circu 
lating a rumour that Warren was selling off damaged stock. He 
concluded that his plan could succeed only in a world where 
other tradesmen adopted it, and after some years established a 
small community at Tuscarawas, Ohio, which was unable to 
sustain itself, perhaps because of the crudity of the idea as it 
then stood in his mind ; for when some twenty years later he 
founded Modern Times there were other elements introduced. 

The commercial basis of this village was that cost is the 
limit of price, and that time is the standard of value. This 
standard was variable with corn. Another principle was that 
the most disagreeable labour is entitled to the highest com 
pensation. 



236 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The social basis of the village was expressed in the phrase 
" individual sovereignty." The principle that there should be 
absolutely no interference with personal liberty was pressed to 
an extent which would have delighted Mill and Herbert Spencer. 
This individual sovereignty was encouraged. Nothing was in 
such disrepute as sameness ; nothing more applauded than 
variety, no fault more venial than eccentricity. 

The arrangements of marriage were left entirely to the indi 
vidual men and women. They could be married formally or 
otherwise, live in the same or separate houses, and have their 
relation known or unknown. The relation could be dissolved at 
pleasure without any formulas. Certain customs had grown out 
of this absence of marriage laws. Privacy was general ; it was 
not polite to enquire who might be the father of a newly-born 
child, or who was the husband or wife of any one. Those who 
stood in the relation of husband or wife wore upon the finger a 
red thread ; so long as that badge was visible the person was 
understood to be married. If it disappeared the marriage was 
at an end. 

The village consisted of about fifty cottages, neat and cheerful 
in their green and white, nearly all with well-tilled gardens. They 
all gathered in their little temple, the men rather disappointing 
me by the lack of individuality in their dress, but the ladies 
exhibiting a variety of pleasing costumes. For a time it was a 
silent meeting. Then the entire company joined in singing 
" There s a good time coming," and after I had read some 
passages from the Bible and from Emerson another hymn was 
sung concerning an expected day 

When the Might with the Right 
And the Truth shall be. 

After my discourse, which was upon the Spirit of the Age, it 
was announced that there would be in the afternoon a meeting 
for conversation. 

The afternoon discussion ranged over the problems of Educa 
tion, Law, Politics, Sex, Trade, Marriage. It exhibited every 
kind of ability, and also illustrated the principle of individuality 
to the rare extent of in no wise exciting a dispute or a sharp word. 
Except that all were unorthodox, each had an opinion of his or 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 23; 

her own ; this being so frankly expressed that behind each 
opened a vista of strange experiences. 

Josiah Warren showed me through his printing-office and 
other institutions of the place. He also gave me one of the little 
notes used as currency among them. It has at one end an oval 
engraving of Commerce with a barrel and a box beside her, and a 
ship near by ; at the other end a device of Atlas supporting the 
sphere ; beneath this a watch, and between these the words 
" Time is Wealth." In the centre is a figure of Justice with scales 
and sword, also a sister-genius with spear and wreath whose name 
I do not know, between these being a shield inscribed " Labour 
for Labour." Above these the following : " Not transferable " ; 
" Limit of issue 200 hours " ; ; The most disagreeable labour is 
entitled to the highest compensation " ; " Due to Five 
Hours in Professional Services or 80 Pounds of Corn." Then 
follows a written signature and the engraved word " Physician." 

Late in the evening a little company gathered in the porch of 
the house in which I was staying, where there was informal 
conversation, and now and then a song. Out there in the moon 
light went on an exchange of confidences, however abstract the 
phrases ; beyond the soft tones I could hear the shriek of tempests 
that wreck lives. Not from happy homes had gathered these 
Thelemites with their motto Fay ce que voudras. 

Some years later, when the plague of War was filling the land, 
I thought of their retreat as not so much a Theleme as a garden 
like that outside Florence where Boccaccio pictures his ladies 
and gentlemen beguiling each other with beautiful tales while 
the Plague was raging in the city. Modern Times had not been 
founded with reference to war. Those gentle people had suffered 
enough of life s struggle, and desired only to be left in peace. But 
where could peace be found ? I never visited Modern Times 
again, but heard that soon after the war broke out most of those 
I had seen there sailed from Montauk Point on a small ship and 
fixed their tents on some peaceful shore in South America. 

Some of the most interesting citizens of Cincinnati were 
Germans. W T e owed their leaders to the revolutions of 1848, 
among these August Willich. He became known in the civil war 
as Major Willich. The late Judge Stallo told me that 
it was believed by himself and other Germans that Willich bore 



238 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in his veins the blood of the royal family of Prussia. He was a 
soldier in the Prussian army until 1846, but having joined the 
band for the liberation of Germany, he was compelled to resign 
at Wesel. He at once set himself to learn the carpenter s trade. 
Willich was eloquent, and the working-men drew him from his 
carpenter s shop to become their leader. He committed, said 
Stallo, enough political offences to have cost him his head a 
dozen times, had he not been a natural son of one of the royal 
family. When the Revolution of Baden broke out he became 
the impassioned leader of that revolution, and when it failed 
Willich was saved from execution in a curious way. He was 
removed secretly from his prison in the dead of night and trans 
ferred to a ship bound for London, under pledge that he would 
never return to Germany a considerable amount of money being 
given to him. From London he went to New York, where he 
set up as a carpenter. It was presently discovered, however, 
that he was an educated man, and he was given a place in the 
Coast Survey. There Judge Stallo made his acquaintance, and 
invited Willich to go to Cincinnati and edit the Republikaner. 
Willich made it a strong and radical paper. When Orsini was 
executed, Willich, who had known him well, headed a great funeral 
torchlight procession ; and under his leadership a similar proces 
sion took place, amid many threats, when John Brown of Harper s 
Ferry was executed. In after years when I saw Garibaldi in 
London, I felt as if I had met him before in the form of my old 
friend Willich. 

About a year after entering my ministry in Cincinnati I 
published there my first volume (pp. 300, 8vo), the title being 
:< Tracts for To-day." It was inscribed as follows : 

TO MY PARENTS 

I dedicate this book, knowing that, whatever they shall find here 
which shall recall painful differences of belief, it would grieve them 
far more to think that I had swerved from the lessons of directness 
and sincerity which, by word and life, they have ever taught as before 
all, and which they have a right to claim from me always and every 
where. 

On the day of my settlement at Cincinnati, a friend said to 
me, " There are about ten millions of dollars in that congrega- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 239 

tion." It had long centuries ago ceased to be hard for the rich 
to enter the " kingdom of heaven " in its otherworldly sense, 
but unorthodoxy was steadily shifting the aim of religion from 
heaven to earth. The conventionalised heavenly dove has wings 
covered with gold, as the psalmist describes one, but the religious 
spirit dealing with the secular world is rather the dove of Jere 
miah, whose " fierceness " astonished the land. All manner of 
" reforms " the visionary along with the rational, the revolu 
tionary and the peaceful nestle under the wings of humani 
tarian religion ; and wealth is shy of it. I inaugurated my work 
with the words, " I determined not to know anything among you 
save Jesus Christ and him crucified," and meant it in a formidable 
sense. The fugitive slave seized and returned to bondage was 
Jesus pierced on his cross. I saw beautiful Reason crucified on 
the cross of Superstition, and human Happiness bearing a crushing 
cross in the Protestant asceticism which repressed the joyousness 
of the young. I demanded that woman should be taken down 
from her cross and given freedom and occupation. I pleaded 
for the establishment of a hospital for inebriates, and even dealt 
with the terrible subject of Prostitution. Our city, I declared, 
would not be even semi-Christian until it built a Foundling 
Hospital, and also an attractive Home for the cruelly " outcast," 
well furnished with kind hearts, which should say, " We are not 
here to condemn thee : come in peace." So did I confront the 
conservatism and wealth of my church, and they stood by me 
from first to last. 

For a long time I adhered to the sacrament. On one such 
occasion Emerson was in the church. Had I known or remem 
bered that it was on the point of his unwillingness to administer 
the " Lord s Supper " that Emerson left the Unitarian ministry 
(1832), I might have been somewhat abashed at seeing him in 
the pew of a prominent member. The subject was Jesus giving 
the bread and wine to Judas. It had been the usage of my prede 
cessors in the pulpit to dismiss the general congregation, com 
municants only remaining. This, however, was inconsistent with 
my interpretation of the sacrament as a simple memorial of self- 
sacrifice in which I wished all, and even children, to unite. But in 
this discourse I made it also a memorial of the boundless love which 
animated a great heart and could not exclude even its betrayer. 



240 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Emerson waited for me at the door, and asked me to go 
with him to his room in the Burnet House. There he spoke con 
cerning my sermon words that gave me great encouragement. 
He never said a word about the sacrament, but that was the last 
time I ever administered it.* I found that some of the best 
people in my congregation could not conscientiously participate 
in an observance so generally associated with a dogma of sacri 
ficial religion. 

One wintry night I was awakened by a knock at my door. 
It was after midnight, and I inquired from a window who was 
there. A woman said that in a tenement near by a poor woman 
was dying, and begged me to come in and see her. She probably 
thought I was a priest, for when I reached the dying woman 
she desired a priest. There was a residence of priests near the 
cathedral, and I despatched a messenger to summon one. An 
elderly little priest came whom I had never seen, but presently 
discovered to be the archibshop himself, Dr. Purcell. Instead 
of waking a younger priest, the old prelate had come himself 
through the cold, and I left him in the miserable room with the 
dying woman. The archbishop spoke to me in a friendly way, 
but I supposed he did not know what a heretic I was. Neverthe 
less, after my sermons demanding hospitals for inebriates and 
foundlings and a home for the outcast were reported in the 
papers, Dr. Purcell called on me. Wide apart as we were in 
religious belief, we had met beside the death-bed of a dying 
pauper, and now we met again by the side of the perishing 
classes in our city. 

He came to confirm, from his long experience in Cincinnati, 
all that I had said, especially my assertion that it was not sensu 
ality that led women into vice, but the want of lucrative occupa 
tion left them no alternatives but physical or moral suicide. 

* Emerson was sorry I had omitted a verse from the hymn " Thou 
hidden love of God," and repeated it tenderly : 

Tis mercy all that thou hast brought 
My mind to seek her peace in Thee ; 
Yet while I seek, but find thee not, 
No peace my wandering soul shall see. 
O when shall all my wanderings end, 
And all my steps to thee-ward tend. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 241 

Archbishop Purcell said that if I could persuade the wealthy 
men of my church to start a movement for building those hos 
pitals, he would find good women to attend to their inmates, 
without the slightest desire to make them Catholics. He declared 
that there was in Cincinnati enough wasted moral energy, repre 
sented in the enforced idleness of female hearts and minds, to 
make our city healthy and happy. 

In the course of our conversation the archbishop told me 
that he was a native of Cork, and when he came to America in 
early life intended to enter on a mission in Virginia. But he 
found the country places too thinly populated. About seven 
miles out of Richmond he saw a solitary man lying on the grass, 
to whom he put questions, receiving lazy "yes " and " no " re 
sponses. Presently he inquired to what churches his neighbours 
went. " Well, not much of any." " What are their religious 
views ? " " Well, not much of any." " Well, my friend, what 
are your own opinions on religion ? " " My notion is that them 
as made me will take care of me." 

I felt certain of Dr. Purcell s good faith in his proposal about 
the suggested hospitals ; and had not inhuman War presently 
overwhelmed humane projects, it is probable that he and I, 
from our opposite poles, would have co-operated in that enter 
prise with success. As it was, I received an invitation from the 
Roman Catholics to give a lecture in St. Nicholas Institute, and 
it was delivered to a large audience. This fraternisation between 
Romanism and Rationalism did not fail to excite surprise, eliciting 
comments in pulpit and press, the secret of that strange pro 
ceeding being known only to my personal friends. 

Although I had become notorious in Unitarian associations 
for indifference to the denominational propaganda, and was 
criticised by some leaders for my unsoundness, it was recognised 
by others that I had reached the heart of thinking people in the 
general community to an extent unusual with Unitarian societies. 
Though some ministers were raising me to the dignity of a heretic, 
I could hardly comply with the demands that came from all sides. 
I lectured twice to the German " Turners," to the assembled 
Jewish societies, and to the assembled actors. These functions 
excited less surprise than the fact that for a month I filled 
evening appointments in a vacant Methodist Episcopal pulpit 
Q 



242 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 



in the suburbs, and preached twice in a Methodist Protestant 
church. 

In none of these outside ministrations was the slightest re 
striction imposed on my utterance. I suppose, indeed, that the 
invitations were prompted by curiosity to hear new views much 
alluded to in the city papers. One event excited universal in 
terest. The most eminent Presbyterian in our neighbourhood 
was the Rev. Dr. Henry Smith, president of Lane Seminary, a 
noted theological (Presbyterian) institution. Dr. Smith was a 
learned man and earnest preacher. I was invited by his students 
to give a lecture in their literary course, and my care to abstain 
from theology no doubt pleased the president. After some 
conversation he agreed to occupy my pulpit on some Sunday 
morning and give a statement and explanation of his religious 
creed. The occasion was one memorable in the religious history 
of Cincinnati. The audience was large and intelligent, and the 
discourse simple, sincere, and deeply interesting. It was reviewed 
by me on the following Sunday in a friendly spirit. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Unitarians and Slavery Rabbi Wise The Abbe Miel Free Lances of 
the Pulpit Literary Studies Evolution Darwin s work Emer 
son in Cincinnati Edward Everett My Marriage Robert Collyer 
The Woman Movement Chess Paul Morphy. 

THERE appeared to me no cloud on the horizon when I found 
myself in Cincinnati with an anti-slavery congregation. Every 
where were signs of increasing anti-slavery sentiment. The 
Conference of Western Unitarian Churches (1858) passed a reso 
lution that the cause of the slave was moral and religious, rightly 
belonging to our pulpits. But two of the societies were in slave 
States, that of the Rev. Mr. Heywood of Louisville, and that of 
the veteran Dr. Elliot of St. Louis, men of New England birth. 
Notwithstanding the moderation of our resolution, we had the 
sorrow of seeing Dr. Elliot and his strong delegation file solemnly 
out, never to return. 

This action of the conference, reversing a timid resolution of 
three years before, \vas a relief to me. It had always been a 
burden to preach about slavery, and it was now less necessary to 
deal much with the subject. The incident was widely discussed 
in the papers, and the Cincinnati Enquirer (anti-Republican) 
described me as an ambitious agitator. I said to my people 
that inhumanity in man or nation must always prove a demon 
of unrest. A legend on which twenty- three years later I pub 
lished a volume then first arose before me as a prophecy : " That 
fable of the Wandering Jew shall be a dread reality to the heart 
which knowingly drives from its threshold the Christ who falls 
there in the form of those who now bear the cross of wrong and 
oppression, and toil up the weary hills of life to their continual 
crucifixion." 

About that time a little recrudescence of prejudice against 
Jews occurred in connection with an organisation called the 
Cincinnati Zouave Guard, against which I protested in the 
papers ; and I even attacked Shakespeare on account of the 



244 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

figure of Shy lock just then personated on our stage. It was to 
be some years before I discovered that the fault was with the 
traditional representation on the stage of Shylock, in whom 
Shakespeare had really vindicated the humanity of the Jew against 
the supernatural evil ascribed to him in Marlowe s Barabbas. 

My defence of the Jews made them my friends, and important 
friends they were, many of the families being highly cultivated as 
well as wealthy. Their two rabbis were as able and learned 
as any in America. Dr. Isaac M. Wise was a man of great good 
sense and energy. He recognised even before I did myself that 
my Christianity, so far from being inimical to his race and religion, 
gave support to both. He wished his race and religion to have 
the credit of having produced Jesus. I was invited at times to 
lecture for Jewish societies, and was entertained in their com 
panies. I speedily discovered that the majority of Rabbi Wise s 
synagogue were not believers in supernaturalism, but simple 
deists. The other Jewish society, that of Dr. Lilienthal, was 
also liberal, but more cautiously so. These did not have the 
same desire that I found in Rabbi Wise to impress the general 
community with a belief in the accord of Judaism with modern 
science and philosophy.* 

Among the pilgrims that visited our city one brought me 
a note from Theodore Parker the Abbe Miel. I fancied some 
generations of sweetness must have given that family its name, 
for this Frenchman was sweeter than the honeycomb. In after 
years I discovered that he had been the most eloquent of the 
young French priests ; and without surprise, for he had so 
charmed me by his conversation, despite our defective knowledge 
of each other s language, that I tried hard to detain him in 
Cincinnati. His history was a revelation to me. He had been 
sent over by the hierarchy in France to England to assist the 
revival of Catholicism there. Having published a pamphlet 
asserting the Nicene Council s declaration of the supremacy of 

* The Hebrew Union College at Cincinnati is really the monument of 
Rabbi Wise and the spirit he diffused in that region. In later years, when 
tracing out the dual development of Semitic thought from the time of 
Solomon, as given in my book on Solomon, I have been much interested 
at observing the cropping up in America of the same contrarious tenden 
cies secular on one side and levitical on the other accompanied, as so 
many times before, by efforts to reconcile them. 






MONCURE D. CONWAY. 245 

the bishop of Rome, a scholar privately proved to him that it 
was a perversion of the original. This original existed only in 
the British Museum, where the Abbe Miel examined it, and found 
the falsity of the Catholic version. He submitted the fact to 
the chief authorities of his church in England, and was shocked 
by their disposition to ignore or to suppress it. In great distress 
the young priest left the church. After some years he married 
an Irish lady, and came to America. While trying to obtain for 
him some position as a teacher in Cincinnati, I employed him to 
teach me French, but our every hour together was occupied by 
his instructions in things more important. This dear friend, long 
a clergyman in Philadelphia (where he died, 1902), says in his 
book, Le Pelerinage d une Ame : " Pour la premiere fois depuis 
que j ai quitte Rome, j ai prononce dans une eglise un discours 
religieux. Cette eglise naturellement etait celle de Mr. Con way ; 
j ai pit enfin parler en homme. Autrefois je parlais plus ou 
moins en fanatique." 

How well do I remember that sermon ! I had gone about 
for several days, searching out all who could understand French, 
whatever their creed, informing them that I had no reason to 
suppose that the abbe shared my heresies. Several hundred 
came together, and rarely have I known such an effect as that 
produced by the marvellous Frenchman. Speaking without 
notes, he appeared to lose thought of himself altogether ; his 
eyes beamed on us, his melodious voice came as if to each of us 
personally ; with but little gesture and no oratorical trick, and 
speaking such perfect French that all could follow him, he up 
lifted the sacred heart in all. Every hearer responded with 
eyes now radiant with joy, now streaming with tears, and faces 
all glowing ; and when the enchantment was over, the company 
lingered to press his hand. 

Could Miel have remained in his church he must have gained 
the fame of Bossuet ; what his creed was I did not know, but I 
saw 7 in him a soul which lily-like would transmute any soil at its 
root into whiteness and sweetness. There was a humanised 
Madonna in his faith whom he engraved on my heart. Monsieur 
Miel did away with rny suspicion of the sincerity of the priesthood, 
and afterwards wrote for my Dial an essay entitled, " Are the 
Priesthood Sincere ? " 



246 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

But we could find no place for Miel in Cincinnati. He and 
his wife went on their way to California, and I was left to give 
vent to my sorrow in publishing in the Gazette a reproach against 
the city that allowed its heavenly visitants to depart unrecog 
nised. 

That which at the beginning of the twentieth century strikes 
me as the most important difference between the religious situa 
tion in America to-day and that of fifty years ago is the absence 
of those free lances which then helped to make history. Theodore 
Parker in Boston, Henry Ward Beecher and Samuel Longfellow 
in Brooklyn, Samuel Johnson in Lynn, Octavius Brooks Fro thing- 
ham, Chapin and Cheever in New York, Robert Collyer and David 
Swing in Chicago, Furness and Lucre tia Mott in Philadelphia, 
Wentworth Higginson at Worcester, Thomas Starr King in San 
Francisco these spoke to the whole land. Except in their inde 
pendence they could not be classed together. It appears to me 
now that the inspiration and eloquence of those public teachers 
was largely due to the presence of a great moral issue justice to 
the slave. The steady advance of that cause inspired faith that 
ideas were stronger than armies, and the vision of to-day would 
be the actuality of to-morrow. In the place of those prophets 
we now find preachers who, albeit scholarly and eloquent, easily 
become spokesmen of sects, apparently without any hope that 
the voice of right reason and justice can affect the course of 
nations. 

It is but too probable, also, that the younger generation, 
while eulogising those shining forerunners, feel half consciously 
that their pillar of fire has for ever turned to cloud. 

My studies became increasingly literary. In poetry my 
passion was still for Robert Browning. I had imported his 
" Christmas Eve and Easter Day " then unknown in America. 
I had not enough interest in any nature except human nature 
to care much for Wordsworth, and it was only a few of Mrs. 
Browning s smaller pieces that moved me some of her sonnets 
(especially " Experience ") and " Lady Geraldine s Courtship." 
But one of her poems ranked with those of her husband s " The 
Lost Bower." On Thanksgiving Day, 1857, my sermon was on 
" The Lost Bower," and in the evening I met at dinner an English 
lady, Mrs. Bodichon, who told me that she had written to her 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 24; 

dear friend Mrs. Browning an account of the sermon to which 
she had listened. I often quoted Robert Browning, and circu 
lated him among my friends ; for he was almost unknown in the 
West, and I remember that when Spofford recited in our club 
" The Lost Leader," its authorship had to be told even to that 
select circle. 

The poems of Arthur Hugh Clough were adapted to my 
state of mind. I had been so moved by his " Bothie of Toberna- 
Vuolich," which Emerson loaned me, that I got from England his 
" Ambarvalia " (published in 1849). These little pieces came 
to me as if privately addressed. Clough rather weakened the 
spell Tennyson had thrown upon me. I had been sitting with 
the Lotus Eaters on their yellow sand, had voyaged with Ulysses 
beyond the sunset, and was held by the vision of the Golden Year 
(without noticing that candid comrade who breaks the dream, 
declaring the Golden Year to be now or never). I remember 
Emerson saying once, " When nature wants an artist she makes 
Tennyson," and when I questioned whether he was not too artistic, 
the answer was, " Everything good is artistic." Emerson s word 
sank into my mind like a seed, and I studied the Laureate more 
carefully, but afterwards found that Emerson himself had ex 
ceptions in his appreciation of Tennyson. In a conversation at 
which I was present, Lowell spoke of the exquisite things in Tenny 
son, quoting the suggestion of death in " The casement slowly 
grows a glimmering square." Emerson said that he found " In 
Memoriam " mainly " drawing-room grief." For myself, I credited 
the whole book with the glorious hymn, " Ring out, wild bells ! " 
which for the last twenty years of my ministry in London was 
sung every Christmas and for the New Year, never failing to 
move us all with its pathos and hope. 

I learned in Cincinnati that Arthur Clough had desired to 
settle permanently in that city, and had applied for a position 
as teacher in its principal school. Ah, what would it not have 
been to me had I found there the man I used to meet in the 
grove near Divinity Hall, and whose noble head was haloed by 
his genius ! I would now have seen more than a halo ; for the 
intervening four years of " mortal moral strife " had brought me 
to the end of all theology. And there, where he had preceded me, 
I found him in his great little book, waiting and on his watch. A> 



248 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I read the first poem in " Ambarvalia," I felt myself among the 
human spirits, and in him that other spirit, " hardly tasking 
subtly questioning " each, recognising among the answers my 
inmost own. 

Dost thou not know that these things only seem ? 
I know not, let me dream my dream. 
Are dust and ashes fit to make a treasure ? 
I know not, let me take my pleasure. 
What shall avail the knowledge thou hast sought ? 
I know not, let me think my thought. 
What is the end of strife ? 
I know not, let me live my life. 
How many days or e er thou mean st to move ? 
I know not, let me love my love. 
Were not things old once new ? 
I know not, let me do as others do. 
And when the rest were over past, 
I know not, I will do my duty, said the last. 

From Goethe and Carlyle and the great scientific writers 
came help in partially recovering time lost in studying dead 
languages in using which for any critical purposes I had always 
to depend on specialists. I ctudied very hard to keep myself 
abreast of science. Early in January, 1859, I answered the Rev. 
Dr. Bushnell s defence of supernaturalism, which rested on the 
alleged evidence of geology that life had not and could not have 
existed in the first conditions of the earth. In discussing the 
claim that the appearance of life could be conceived only as a 
result of divine action, I cited what Agassiz told us of embryonic 
development ; and that the metamorphoses of each animal in 
the egg corresponded with the succession of species in the crust 
of the earth, pointed, I claimed, to the derivation of one species 
from another. I put the same point as a question to Agassiz 
himself five years before, and he said the theory would lead to 
atheism. My theism being purely experiential I could not 
appreciate his answer. 

In January, 1859, appeared at Albany, N.Y., No. 5 of the 
" Tracts for the Times," a series put forth by the (Unitarian) 
Ladies Religious Publication Society. This was my first essay 
in Demonology, and was entitled, " The Natural History of the 
Devil." While I was writing this in the fall of 1858, I had the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 249 

advantage of conversing with Emerson on my subject, and he 
spoke of " arrested and progressive development." He thought 
that the same principle was applicable to the mental and moral 
man. He suggested my use of the conversation, without his 
name, and the subjoined passage was added that same day to 
my tract : 

The doctrine known as " arrested development " which has had 
such a tremendous influence in natural history, will also apply here. 
Every animal is a man in this arrested development. The quadruped 
develops more and becomes an ape ; arrested there for an aeon, the 
development rises to the savage ; the next wave of the on-flowing 
tide of life rises to man no longer arrested and bound to the earth by 
his forefeet, as in the wolf, nor only partially released as in the orang 
outang, nor held by passion and ignorance as in the savage. The 
hare-lip which we see in men at times is the arrest of the lip in its 
development ; every lip is at one stage of its embryonic growth a 
hare-lip. Sometimes the hand is arrested, and remains more like 
that of an ape. But the animals also have dispositions which enter 
man to partake his spiritual development ferocity, passion, mean 
ness, deceit, and so on. Here, too, is " arrested development " ; 
one man does not get beyond the serpent ; another finds that he has 
difficulty in passing the condition of a bear ; another is arrested at 
the hyena. How familiar is the class of calves and donkeys walking 
on two feet around us ! This is the path we all travel, even though 
at length we beat down the animal beneath our feet ; and evil is only 
the living out among men of their arrested developments. 

This statement follows Emerson closely, and it is another 
illustration of the fact that we who studied him were building 
our faith on evolution before Darwin came to prove our founda 
tions strictly scientific.* In December, 1859, Darwin s " Origin 
of Species " was hailed in my sermon : 

Now comes Darwin and establishes the fact that Nature is all 
miracle, but without the special ones desired ; that by perfect laws 

* See ante, p.i5i n. It is notable that in considering the same subject 
the Devil Spinoza had hit upon the principle of " survival of the 
fittest." In his early treatise, De Deo et Homine, he says : " From the 
perfection of a thing proceeds its power of continuance : the more of 
the Essential and Divine a thing possesses, the more enduring it is. But 
how could the devil, having no trace of perfection in him, exist at all ? 



250 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the lower species were trained to the next higher and that to the next 
until 

Striving to be man, the worm 

Mounts through all the spires of form. 

This formidable man, speaking from the shelter of the English 
throne and from under the wings of the English Church itself, did not 
mean to give Dogmatic Christianity its deathblow ; he meant to utter 
a simple theory of nature. But henceforth all temples not founded 
on the rock of natural science are on the sand where the angry tides 
are setting in. 

Soon after the appearance of Darwin s volume Emerson 
visited Cincinnati to give a lecture in the regular course of the 
Mercantile Library Association, and I had the delight of talking 
over with him the great discovery of Darwin. 

I can now see that neither Emerson nor any of us the pre- 
Darwinite Evolutionists in our joyful welcome of Darwin s 
work sufficiently weighed his words concerning the boundlessness 
of the time in which nature had wrought. We were still in the 
Twilight of the Gods, reverently spelt nature with a big N, and 
saw our goddess ever at her loom, but weaving with swift shuttles. 

Myron Benton, a true poet and lover of nature, sent me a 
criticism on the new theory (Dial, June, 1860). He found that 
Darwin did not explain beauty. He quoted Thoreau : " Nature 
puts some kind of pleasure before every fruit ; not simply a 
calyx behind it." The highest types of beauty, said Benton, 
most often combine with forms least able to withstand the fierce 
struggle for existence. Myron thought that natural selection 
would give us nothing but Calibans. But while I was considering 
this criticism, Emerson visited Cincinnati and gave in my church 
a lecture on " Beauty," in which it (Beauty) was combined with 
brute strength in a way that really included human selection as 
a part of natural selection. One of Emerson s texts from the 
mythologists was, " Beauty rides on a Lion." This I interpreted 
in the October Dial : " No foliation of shaft or arch can make 
them beautiful unless they are strong enough to support what 
they are set to support. Venus must rest upon the lion of health, 
and cannot substitute pallor and hectic fire for the lily and the 
rose. This parable reminds us that our popular Christianity 
has not fulfilled the law of the higher formation. It must every- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 251 

where sum up all the preceding formations, and lose none of 
their contributions, as the animal generations are summed up 
in the forehead of man." 

It was to be twenty-five years before I discovered that the 
function of Human Selection was to take the place of Natural 
Selection, and develop the Calibans into beauty, but also that 
it was possible for man to develop himself and his world down 
ward. 

The lecture on Beauty just referred to was one of four given 
in my church by Emerson. He had come for his annual lecture 
in the Mercantile Library course, but A. R. Spofford and I per 
suaded him to give more lectures. We found no difficulty in 
disposing of tickets enough to pay him well, and we had a festival 
week never forgotten. On one evening, previously selected for 
a company at Judge Hoadly s house, Mrs. Hoadly so managed 
that her entire company went to the lecture and afterwards to 
her house, with Emerson at their head. Every interval of time 
he could spare was seized on by leading citizens for luncheons 
and dinners. One that Emerson especially enjoyed was a dinner 
given by Charles Stetson, at which former Senator Corwin was 
present. Emerson amused me by saying of Corwin, " I like his 
face." Corwin w r as of distinguished homeliness ; his face was 
brown, his features irregular, and at the time he was about 
sixty lines were appearing around his mouth and eyes. But all 
this vanished away when he began talking ; his wit, the sheet- 
lightning play of his humour, his incomparable art in telling good 
stories his face becoming scenic, and all the features actors 
made Thomas Corwin delightful company. Emerson saw the 
genius in that curious face before the statesman had said anything 
at all. At the table Corwin almost made Emerson laugh audibly 
a rare thing by saying, " We Westerners are apt to have doubts 
about the Boston literary man ; we want to see the scalps on his 
wiper ! " There was some fine play of repartee round the table, 
and the two chief guests were reciprocally captivated. 

I took Emerson to see the venerable Nicholas Longworth, 
the historic figure of Cincinnati, whose growth from a small 
riverside settlement he had witnessed. The old gentleman was 
pleased with our call, and gave us into the care of his son-in-law 
Flagg to be guided through his great Catawba wine-cellars. We 



252 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

were able to follow the evolution of wine. At one point there was 
a large stack of champagne set apart, in order, the workmen told 
us, that the strength of new bottles might be tested. I made 
some jesting remark about putting new wine in new bottles, but 
the foreman said that it was the new bottles they had to watch. 
We find out about them when the vines in the vintage begin to 
flower ; then the wine ferments and some bottles break." The 
German was quite prosaic in his statement, and added that the 
wine would sometimes burst the casks in the spring. " That s 
very German," said Emerson when we left, and I suspected that 
the wine of Longworth s cellar would some day have a trans 
cendent blossoming. Seven years later I read in " May Day " : 

When trellised grapes their flowers unmask, 

And the new-born tendrils twine, 

The old wine darkling in the cask 

Feels the bloom on the living vine, 

And bursts the hoops at hint of spring : 

And so, perchance, in Adam s race, 

Of Eden s bower some dream-like trace 

Survived the Flight and swam the Flood 

And wakes the wish in youngest blood 

To tread the forfeit Paradise, 

And feed once more the exile s eyes. 

I told Emerson of the gathering of children on Sunday morning 
before church-time, which had none of the usual Sunday-school 
features, but consisted of an address, singing, and conversation 
of teachers with children classified by their age. I hinted that 
it would be a cherished remembrance of the little ones were he 
to look in on them, and he said it would give him pleasure to see 
the children. It would be a fine subject for an artist who could 
paint Emerson as he stood weaving his spells about those children. 
At a time when prosaic reviewers were complaining of Emerson s 
obscurity these children received ideas as high as any in his books. 
He told them about his neighbour Henry Thoreau, his love and 
knowledge of nature, his intimate friendship with the flowers, 
and with the birds he sometimes coaxed to his shoulder, and with 
the fishes that swam into his hand taking care to explain the 
scientific secret inside each fairy-tale. But alas ! I made no 
notes of the wonderful address, under which all of us sat as little 
children, charmed by this sweet-hearted master. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 253 

How beautiful appeared that Sunday morning to all who had 
the happiness to be present ! Amid all the storms of controversy 
and war beating around the city, there still shone in our vision 
the radiant scene ; and after the lapse of more than forty years, 
when I chanced to pass the corner of Fourth and Race streets, 
I saw beyond the business edifice occupying our old site those 
children and instructors at Emerson s feet. 

Some able men lectured in Cincinnati. I recall a wonderful 
lecture by Carl Schurz, little known then, on Napoleon III. The 
Hon. Edward Everett gave us his famous oration on George 
Washington in February, 1858. 

My friend Edward Everett Hale, in his " Memories of a 
Hundred Years, "has given a portraiture of his uncle, Hon. Edward 
Everett, which is partly a vindication. To some extent this 
was needed, especially by those who were contemporaries of that 
famous man. Edward Everett was a highly accomplished gentle 
man and scholar, who had the misfortune to fall upon an age 
and crisis when triphammers were more valued than the superfine 
qualities he possessed. At Cambridge I heard stories concerning 
his presidency, evidently caricatures, showing that he had left 
there a reputation of childish timidity. One was that he saw 
Freshmen playing leap-frog over the iron pillars at an entrance 
into the grounds. He sent for them and desired them to discon 
tinue that sport, as they might loosen the pillars, and some 
reckless student might use one " to batter in my door ! " In 
Boston the anti-slavery people regarded him as weak and timid 
because of his record as a compromiser ; and at Washington he 
had left a bad impression among the Unitarians because while 
in Congress he had not associated himself with their church, al 
though he had been an eminent Unitarian minister.* There was 
indeed nothing polemical about Everett ; nature had not given 
him any apparatus for either controversial or reforming work. 
For his inevitable passiveness in that stormy period he was 
malgrc lui petted by reactionists, and had to suffer a share of 

* I was told that at a Unitarian gathering in Boston Everett was 
called on to preside, and said as he arose, " I am always ready to be of 
service to Unitarianism." "Except at Washington," said Jared Sparks, 
beside him. And now (1904) Everett s Unitarian nephew and namesake 
is Chaplain of Congress ! 



254 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the opprobrium visited on them. I had seen him in Boston, 
but first met him in Cincinnati, where he was the guest of William 
Greene, uncle of the lady to whom I was betrothed. It was 
impossible not to be attracted by him personally. He was 
handsome in the ideal way. A fine portrait of him was painted 
in Cincinnati by my friend Oriel Eaton, but no art could quite 
render the elegant figure, the countenance so exquisitely oval 
without being effeminate, and the finely modelled features. Yet 
his manners in company were simple and unpretending, his eyes 
sweet and sympathetic. Mr. Hale denies the truth of the tra 
dition that Everett s eloquence was merely academic. His cele 
brated lecture on George Washington did not impress me as 
academic ; it was really a eulogy, based on what was then ac 
cepted as history, though it would now be regarded as all honey ; 
but I felt at the time that his art was not enough concealed. I 
remember particularly his taking up a glass of water beside him, 
and after sipping it holding it for an instant in his right hand, 
and as he spoke of the limpid purity of Washington giving a 
little wave of his hand by which some of the water fell in crystal 
drops to the floor. I could not think it quite by accident that 
the glass happened to be full of water at the right moment. For 
all that, the oration delivered by that calmly animated, even 
beautiful scholar remains in my memory as an ideal thing in its 
way ; and now, when the miserable recriminations of that period 
are passed, I think of Edward Everett as a flower out of the 
culture of New England whose beauty and fragrance could not 
be fairly appreciated. But that marvellous oration on George 
Washington, delivered throughout the great cities, earned 
$62,000, which without any deduction was given over for the 
purchase of Mount Vernon.* 

On June i, 1858, I was married to Ellen Davis Dana, daughter 

* While Edward Everett was giving that lecture he heard of a collec 
tion of Washington s letters written to William Pearce, who was manager 
of the Mount Vernon estates while he was President. These letters Mr. 
Everett purchased, intending to edit and publish them ; but the task 
was never undertaken. The letters, 127 in number, were purchased 
from his heirs by James Carson Brevoort, an active founder of the Long 
Island Historical Society (1863), to which he presented the Washington 
manuscripts. These agricultural and personal letters were confided to 
my editorial care by that society in 1889, and published the same year. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 255 

of Charles Davis and Sarah Pond (Lyman) Dana of Cincinnati. 
Mr. Dana belonged to the Dedham (Massachusetts) branch of 
the family, his mother being an Oliphant of the same State. 
Mrs. Dana was a daughter of Joseph Lyman of Northampton, 
Massachusetts. 

It was a beautiful wedding. Two members of our church 
who had conservatories, Mr. Ernst and Mr. Hofmann, made the 
pulpit a mass of flowers, and in front of it the young people, under 
direction of the artist Oriel Eaton, built a bower of white roses, 
under which we stood. The choir, a fine quartette, the organist 
being young Edward Dannreuther, now a distinguished composer 
in London, increased its fame. We were married by the Rev. 
Dr. Furness, who travelled from Philadelphia to unite us. In the 
evening we were serenaded by the chief musical society. 

A notable event was connected with the visit of Dr. Furness. 
When I offered him payment he said he would accept nothing 
for himself, but would give what I offered to a working-man of 
ability near Philadelphia who for some time had preached for 
the Methodists. He had become unorthodox, and would preach 
in the Unitarian pulpit on the Sunday of Furness s absence. The 
man was Robert Collyer. His appearance in an unorthodox 
pulpit on that day caused scandal in the Philadelphia Methodist 
Conference, which had licensed him as a " local preacher." He 
gave up his licence, and rapidly reached distinction as a Unitarian. 
When Collyer had become a preacher in Chicago, our friendship 
was formed in working together to place the Western Unitarian 
Conference in an anti-slavery attitude. That friendship has 
continued unbroken. It was always a satisfaction to us that the 
first honorarium ever given Robert Collyer for a sermon was our 
marriage fee. 

The first copy of my " Tracts for To-day " was presented to 
my betrothed, and in it I find written : " Silver and gold have 
I none, but such as I have give I thee." The words were more 
strictly true than most of our friends could imagine. My wife s 
father, through an unfortunate endorsement of a friend s notes, 
had lost nearly everything. I had managed to save nearly $2,000, 
which was deposited with the Life and Trust Company in Cin 
cinnati. The failure of that company began the " crisis " of 
1857. I got only ten cents on the dollar. I had to ask an 



256 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

advance on my salary in order to buy furniture. But my 
bride and I regarded the poverty attending our first steps as a 
sort of joke.* 

Our bridal party, including Samuel Longfellow and Rev. Dr. 
Furness, went on an excursion down the Ohio (there being on 
the steamboat a bridal stateroom decorated with Venus, the Graces, 
and Cupids). At the Mammoth Cave we lost the light of one day 
groping in the weird underworld, bride and bridesmaids having 
exchanged their wedding raiment for indescribable bloomers. 
On our return to Cincinnati we fixed ourselves in a small house, 
then 114, Hopkins Street, and were conscious only of our riches. 
We had health and friends and freedom of heart and mind ; 
and my salary, $2,000 (nearly twice the value of what that 
sum would be now), was sufficient for our indulgence even in 
hospitality. Lately I sought out that first house of ours, where 
our eldest child, Eustace, was born ; grey and alone I witnessed 
to my heart that Love can make a fairyland in humble abodes. 

The year 1858 was altogether beautiful. It was a constant 
exhilaration to find every channel of influence open. Every 
hand willing to work was wanted ; the journals wanted articles, 
various societies wanted addresses, and events were continually 
occurring which called forth ethical discussion. 

The Woman question was bourgeoning out in various shapes. 
A woman was arrested in Cincinnati for being found in male 
attire. She came into the police-court with her brother, and 
with a clear eye and firm voice declared that she had assumed 
this dress to get employment. Her brother worked as a common 
hand, she usually as a cabin-boy, and she found she could do 
better work in this dress and also that she was " safer." When 
sentenced to wear female dress the girl burst into tears and said 

* We were amused by reading in some journals that I had married a 
rich lady, a notion derived probably from the wealth of her uncle, 
William Greene. But we never received gifts from anyone except, in 
later years, a bequest from my father ($2,500), and a testimonial of 350 
given by South Place Chapel to my wife. That we had money enough 
for comfort, though never wealth, was due to our own labours, and to 
the friendship of Learner B. Harrison and Judge George Hoadly of Cin 
cinnati, who invested and nursed our savings. The friendship of these 
men and of their families is among the treasures not to be estimated by 
visible benefits. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 25; 

she could always get work as a boy, but as a girl would perish. 
Another case excited extreme interest. A young lady applied 
for a licence to practise law. It was not supposed that the judges 
would take the application seriously, but they decided that no 
law excluded women from the bar. We suffered, however, a 
cruel disappointment. The lady had studied many law books, 
but did not know the extent of the examination required. Finding 
that she would have to go through a law school, she abandoned 
her enterprise. 

In dealing with such matters as these, I had happily one at 
my side on whose counsel to depend. I did not espouse all that 
was called " Woman s Rights," but did not ridicule the much- 
confused cause, and in an early sermon said : " When any clear 
flame comes out of that smoke I will be as ready as anyone to 
light my torch thereat and bear it before men." The fire beneath 
that smoke I regarded as the restrictions on female employment 
and its underpayment. I canvassed the business establishments, 
and although I found that woman s work was better paid than 
in the Eastern cities, the women teaching in our high schools were 
getting an average of from $500 to $700 for the same work that 
brought the male teachers $1,200 to $1,700. The only fair field 
for women was the theatres ; in each of them, besides the ac 
tresses, who were highly paid, a considerable number of girls were 
employed at $5 a week, who had most of each day free. I 
demanded the right of women to every occupation and profession. 

Despite all my freedom there was a curious survival in me up 
to my twenty-seventh year of the Methodist dread of card-playing. 
The only indoor game I knew was chess. There was a flourishing 
Chess Club in Cincinnati, and I entered into the matches with 
keen interest. For a time I edited a weekly chess column in 
the Cincinnati Commercial, and wrote an article on Chess which 
Lowell published in the Atlantic Monthly. Whenever in New 
York I hastened to the Chess Club there, and watched the play 
of Lichtenstein, Thompson, Perrin, Marache, Fiske (editor of the 
Chess Monthly), and Colonel Mead, president of the club. This 
was at a time when the wonderful Paul Morphy was exciting 
the world. In July, 1858, I called on him at the Brevoort House, 
New York. He was a rather small man, with a beardless face 
that would have been boyish had it not been for the melancholy 



258 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

eyes. He was gentlemanly, and spoke in low tones. It had 
long been out of the question to play with him on even terms ; 
the first-class players generally received the advantage of a 
knight, but being a second-class player I was given a rook. In 
a letter written at the time I mention five games in which I 
was beaten with these odds, but managed (or was permitted) to 
draw the sixth. It is added : 

When one plays with Morphy the sensation is as queer as the 
first electric shock, or first love, or chloroform, or any entirely novel 
experience. As you sit down at the board opposite him, a certain 
sheepishness steals over you, and you cannot rid yourself of an old 
fable in which a lion s skin plays a part. Then you are sure you have 
the advantage ; you seem to be secure you get a rook you are 
ahead two pieces ! three ! ! Gently, as if wafted by a zephyr, the 
pieces glide about the board ; and presently as you are about to win 
the game a soft voice in your ear kindly insinuates, Mate I You 
are speechless. Again and again you try ; again and again you are 
sure you must win ; again and again your prodigal antagonist 
leaves his pieces at your mercy ; but his moves are as the steps of 
Fate. Then you are charmed all along, so bewitchingly are you 
beheaded : one had rather be run through by Bayard, you know, 
than spared by a pretender. On the whole, I could only remember 
the Oriental anecdote of one who was taken to the banks of the 
Euphrates, where by a princely host he was led about the magnifi 
cent gardens and bowers, then asked if anything could be more beau 
tiful. " Yes," he replied, " the chess-play of El-Zuli." So having 
lately sailed down the Hudson, having explored Staten Island, 
Hoboken, Fort Hamilton, and all the glorious retreats about New 
York, I shall say for ever that one thing is more beautiful than 
them all the chess-play of Paul Morphy. 

This was in July, 1858. I had already received a domestic 
suggestion that it was possible to give too much time to an 
innocent game, and the hint was reinforced by my experience 
with Morphy. I concluded that if, after all the time I had given 
to chess, any man could give a rook and beat me easily, any 
ambition in that direction might as well be renounced. Thence 
forth I played only in vacations or when at sea. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Art in Cincinnati Journalism A Spiritualist Apostle Theodore Parker 
A Conflict among Unitarian Alumni Letter from Martineau 
The Raid of John Brown My Condemnation of the Crime, and 
my Retreat The " Infidels "The " Tom Paine " Mythology- 
Sermon on Paine Secession from my Church The Monthly Dial 
W. D. Howells My Tale of Excalibur Frothingham s Articles 
Letter of Emerson, and his Contributions to my Dial 
Notable Papers The Welcome to Hawthorne. 

IN later years Cincinnati became celebrated for its art collec 
tions. There was an English artist there, Henry Worrall, a 
man of fine wit, around whom we formed a little " U & I 
society. Our artists brought to its weekly evenings quaint sketches 
and the rest of us literary fancies. I contributed a half-humorous, 
half-philosophical series, " Dr. Einbohrer and his Pupils," which 
I have at times thought of printing on account of the pen-and- 
ink illustrations inserted by Worrall. 

There is in the Catholic cathedral at Cincinnati a large picture 
by Hay don, the subject being the entrance of Jesus into Jeru 
salem seated on an ass. I was told that the picture had reached 
an American port in a slightly damaged condition, and the 
importer parted with it at a reduced price. The figures in it, 
however, were in good condition, and I found some symbolism 
in it. Among those surrounding Jesus the artist painted a 
devout disciple with the face of Wordsworth, and a scoffing 
Sadducee with the face of Voltaire. Voltaire has his chin too 
high in the air to see Jesus exactly, and Wordsworth bends so 
low that his worship seems rather to the ass than to the man on 
it. At that time I retained some ignorant prejudices against 
Voltaire, and identified Wordsworth with " The Lost Leader 5: 
of Browning more literally than was just. Hay don s picture 
gave me the theme of a sermon, which when reported pleased 
the Catholics by exciting interest in their picture ; but it dis- 



260 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

turbed some reactionists beginning to appear in my church, who 
were warned against lowering their homage from a great man 
to the system that had taken him on its back. 

The press of Cincinnati was marked by much ability. Some 
of the writers on it afterwards gained national reputation 
Whitelaw Reid, Donn Piatt, Murat Halstead. Henry Reed and 
his brother Samuel were both brilliant writers, and as they were 
political antagonists, at work on rival papers, their fraternal 
duels were entertaining.* Ohio was full of intellectual activity, 
and vigorous letters poured in on the papers from all parts. 
The Cincinnati papers circulated more widely than any others 
throughout the West, and I was glad to get my ideas into them. 
I did not write for money, and considered it generous in the 
editors to print my often paradoxical pieces. 

Cincinnati was occasionally visited by the great apostle of 
spiritualism, Andrew Jackson Davis. There was something 
phenomenal about this man, who spoke in a strange rapture, 
and delineated the varied continents and mansions of heaven 
with a precision truly wonderful. It was like the exactness of 
the Oriental Scriptures, whose omniscience was represented in 
precise knowledge of the seven hells, nine celestial spheres, 
twenty chiliocosms, six days of creation, etc. 

Although Andrew Jackson Davis was no scholar, his disciples 
made him an unlettered man without natural ability, in order 
to prove his eloquence not his, but that of the spirits. Davis 
had, however, evidently received a fair English education. At 
that time Bohn s cheap translations of classics abounded, and 
I perceived that Davis had got Plato by heart if not so well by 
head. I remember listening for a half-hour to Socrates dream 
of the ethereal sea at the bottom of which we dwell, and the super 
imposed celestial realm, to which Davis had added a chart of 
various magnetic high-roads, apparently suggested by the Milky 
Way. 

At Washington there had been too much to absorb me in 

* A sharp exchange of affronts occurred between the Commercial 
and the (Sunday) Enquirer ; the editorial language being such that people 
watched about the office doors of those papers with expectation of some 
violent encounter. I was privately informed that it was all one of Henry 
Reed s jokes, and that he wrote the insults in both papers ! 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 261 

the conflicts of the earth for much thought concerning spiritual 
realms, but at Cincinnati there was a small circle of excellent 
people desirous of converting me. On one occasion there was 
rapped out a message from someone with whom I had gone to 
school in Virginia. It appeared impossible that anyone so far 
away in time and space could know anything about us of that 
old academy ; but on writing to my mother about that school 
mate, I learned that he had gone West, married a spiritualist, 
and was still living. The raps, however, puzzled me, and it was 
only in later years that I understood them when listening to the 
confession of Miss Fox, the earliest spirit-rapper, who with her 
toe made a sound that I heard across the Academy of Music, 
New York. When I related this in London, Professor Huxley 
wrote to the papers that he had long suspected the origin of the 
raps, and had trained his toes to a power of making them. 

When eminent " mediums " visited Cincinnati I sometimes 
invited them to hold a seance in my house with a company of 
believers and unbelievers. The famous Mr. Foster was with us, 
and failed in all his experiments. On another occasion Mr. 
Newton of Boston made our table pitch and whirl about. One 
leg, at least, of the table was always on the floor, but two days 
after I was visited by some eminent citizens who demanded if 
the report were true that a spiritualist had made my table float 
through the air. The spiritualists present were perfectly sincere 
in their mistaken impression of what had occurred. 

Early in 1859, when I was delivering discourses against 
supernaturalism that alienated my right wing, Theodore 
Parker fell ill and went abroad for health. The silence of 
that voice was a grievous event. Parker had for many years 
addressed about five thousand people in the Boston Music Hall ; 
he had been denounced by the associated Unitarians, and several 
ministers had lost their positions by inviting him into their 
pulpits. The orthodox sects in Boston had become so demoralised 
by his increasing influence that in 1858 many of them united 
in a special day of prayer to invoke the divine interference with 
Parker s reign of terror. Some of these prayer-meetings 
were disgraceful ; the appeal of one gospeller, " O Lord, put a 
hook in his jaws ! " became a byword. While this fanaticism 
was raging in Boston, Africans were praying for the recovery of 



262 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

their champion. Although the imprecations in vulgar conventi 
cles excited general laughter, it had depressed Parker to think 
that after so many years labour for the culture and charities 
of Boston he could be the object of widespread odium. When I 
went in July to Boston, I saw Joseph Lyman and several other 
adherents of Parker, whose reports concerning his condition 
were not encouraging. I received an impression that though 
the great preacher s health had long been feeble, it had been 
lowered by these prayerful outrages, and the fanatics might boast 
that Heaven had answered their petition. 

Theodore Parker had regularly attended our annual meeting 
of alumni (of Divinity School), and feeling that some word of 
sympathy from his brother alumni might have a happy effect 
on his mind and health, I consulted the Rev. James Freeman 
Clarke, who, though of the right wing in theology, loved Parker, 
and defended liberty. He eagerly responded, and said he 
would second a resolution if I would prepare one. The 
resolution, submitted to Clarke, was in the following terms : 

Resolved, That the association has heard with deep regret of the 
failure, during the past year, of the health of the Rev. Theodore 
Parker ; and we hereby extend to him our heartfelt sympathy, and 
express our earnest hope and prayer for his return, with renewed 
strength and heart unabated, to the post of duty which he has so 
long filled with ability and zeal. 

I do not think I made any speech at all in moving the resolu 
tion, leaving it to Clarke, for many years the reconciling spirit, 
to say all that was necessary. His brief speech was beautiful 
and touching. Alluding to past controversies, he said that how 
ever hard had been some things said by Parker, he personally 
knew that he cherished the tenderest feelings towards the members 
of the association. Here, he said, was an opportunity to show 
a Christian spirit towards him, to bless him, and upon no one 
could kindly sentiments have happier effect. 

The pathetic words of great-hearted Clarke might have moved 
a stone, but not one so hard as the relic of Puritan intolerance 
lingering even in that scholarly assembly. There ensued the last 
outburst of wrath against " Parkerism." I will not rake up any 
names. A venerable leader, disowning any personal ill-will 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 263 

towards Parker, acknowledging his learning and power, cried 
almost shouted that he could not wish him to resume his work 
of " pulling down the kingdom of the Lord Jesus." Antagonistic 
speeches followed, and an effort was made to induce us to with 
draw the resolution, on the ground that there was no precedent 
for expressing sympathy for a suffering associate. Clarke and I 
respectfully declined to withdraw, my seconder declaring in 
solemn w r ords that it was not a matter of form, and it was now 
necessary for us to say either that we did or did not sympathise 
with the suffering man. This turned the anger upon me, and one 
minister intimated that I w r as trying to get from the association 
an endorsement of my own opinions. To this I replied that 
although I could not withdraw the resolution, I would cheerfully 
vote for an altered form which should express personal sympathy 
without any allusion to Parker s work. This was met by a 
cry from one opponent, " We don t want it in any shape ! " The 
speeches then became so sharp, though no further word was 
uttered by Clarke or myself, that an effort was made to exclude 
the reporters. These, however, were permitted to remain on 
an assurance from one of our opponents that they " knew well 
enough what to report and what not to" a confidence fully 
justified. The speeches w r ere all softened in the next day s papers, 
and not a hint given of my having agreed to substitute for my 
resolution " any kind word." 

A direct vote was after all escaped. The advertised hour 
for the annual address, to be delivered that year by Dr. Bellows 
of New York, had already been passed by a few minutes, and a 
motion for adjournment was carried. 

Next day I breakfasted at Lowell s house with Edmund 
Quincy, who said, " So you couldn t get the Unitarians to pray 
for Parker ? " He and others regarded it as due to my want of 
familiarity with the old Parkerite polemics that, while repudi 
ating miracles, I should have attempted such a miracle as to 
soften the heart of militant Unitarianism. 

The recoil on the denomination was serious. Tidings came 
of the affectionate reception with which Theodore Parker had 
been welcomed in London by the Unitarians. Since the death 
of Channing, James Martineau had been recognised throughout 
America and Europe as the greatest representative of the Uni- 



264 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

tarian theology and of the spiritual life beneath it. He and his 
eminent co-worker, the venerable John James Tayler, having 
found Parker too weak to preach to their people, as they had 
desired, welcomed him in their homes, invited the best people to 
meet nim, and parted from him with tenderest emotion. These 
London leaders were familiar with Parker s writings and with 
all controversies in Boston. I wrote to Martineau, and received 
an answer evidently meant for publication. In it he said : 

Some painful experience has taught me to estimate these things 
at their right value, and to see that some of the purest, noblest, and 
devoutest men of this age have been and are among the excommuni 
cate. What nobler practical life nay, in spite of all extravagances, 
what nobler inner religion has our time seen than Theodore Parker s ? 
Dissenting from his Christology, and opposing it nay, strongly feel 
ing the defects of his philosophy I deeply honoured and loved him, 
and from the first recognised in him one of God s true prophets of 
righteousness. But there never was, and never will be, a Stephen 
whom the chief priests and the Sanhedrim at large do not cast out 
and stone. 

This, from the man whose " Endeavours after the Christian 
Life " had become as daily bread in every Unitarian household 
in America, amounted to an adjudication. When it presently 
became known by his last published letter that the refusal of his 
fellow alumni to express any sympathy with him was the last 
thorn in the pillow of a dying man, and when before the year had 
passed he lay in his grave at Florence, his brave spirit arose in 
the Unitarian church in America. 

I once asked Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes if he had ever heard 
Theodore Parker. He said, " I am sorry to say, no ; one morning 
I concluded to go and listen to him, but I had waited too long ; 
it was announced from the platform that Mr. Parker was too ill 
to preach. He left for Europe soon after, and never preached 
again." This failure of Dr. Holmes to hear Parker was in notable 
contrast with what was told me concerning Thackeray. W T hen 
that novelist visited Boston he was entertained by a magnate 
of the city, who asked him whether there was any particular 
person he desired to meet. To the dismay of his host, Thackeray 
answered, " Yes, Theodore Parker." Dr. Holmes, as is shown 
by an allusion in his " Autocrat of the Breakfast Table," had 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 265 

sympathetic interest in Parker s heresy, but it needed the 
preacher s death to give him a perspective like that which a 
distance of three thousand miles had given Thackeray. 

Such a perspective was opened for all Unitarian eyes by the 
death of Parker. From many censorious lips came the homage 
to Parker s dust which had been denied to his living presence. 
But Emerson, who could recognise greatness before its canonisa 
tion, met with the vast concourse of mourners gathered at the 
Music Hall, on Sunday, June 17, 1860, and laid on the grave of 
Theodore Parker an unfading wreath. This was the final con 
firmation, as if in a supreme court, of the judgment rendered by 
James Martineau. The intolerance lingering in creedless Uni- 
tarianism was put to confusion. A heavy burden rolled from 
the shoulders of the young generation at the foot of Parker s 
cross. James Freeman Clarke was elected to the chief office in 
the Unitarian association, sometimes passing from his official 
chair to preach to Parker s congregation. In an article on 
" The Nemesis of Unitarianism," 1860, I was able to point out 
twenty-five ministers on the ground where fifteen years before 
Theodore Parker laboured alone.* 

I find something in the third year of my ministry in Cin 
cinnati with which to reproach myself. It is with regard to the 
raid of John Brown in Virginia. 

On October 23, 1859, the Sunday after tidings came of the 
events of October 16-17 a ^ Harper s Ferry, I delivered a dis 
course, which was published in a Cincinnati paper ; and after 

* In less than thirty years from the time when the assembled alumni 
of the Divinity School refused to unite in my prayer for Parker s restora 
tion to health and work, the denomination had come to the heretic s 
ground. The Parker Memorial Hall and its society, unable to find a leader, 
wisely concluded that there was no longer any reason for maintaining 
an attitude of defence where there was no longer any attack. They con 
sulted Parker s old friends and the Unitarian leaders who admired him 
such as Edward Everett Hale with the result that it was determined to 
make over the Memorial Hall to the Benevolent Fraternity of Churches 
in Boston. It was arranged that the closing service of the 28th Con 
gregational Society should be of historical importance. I was invited to 
deliver the chief address, and in it gave my personal recollections of 
the man and the preacher. His friend Mrs. Cheney made a very touch 
ing address, and Mr. Hale spoke in his happiest vein. So do dark clouds 
of the morning sometimes float into light at eventide. 



266 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the lapse of forty-five years it appears to me just. I described 
the action of John Brown as " worse than a crime a blunder." 
Referring to his career in Kansas, where he saw his house burned 
and two of his sons murdered, I said : 

The hatred of slavery, hitherto a principle in this old man s heart, 
now, as he looked upon the cold, ghastly features of his slain sons, 
raged within him ; what was before a healthy feeling for human 
rights became a morbid monomania, which saw in every slaveholder 
a border ruffian, in every slave his slain son. How this disease in 
the old man s mind has worked itself out, and with what results, the 
telegraph has been reporting to us during the week. ... I believe 
Brown to have been mad as the average view madness ; and I thank 
God that in this selfish age, when everything ere it be decided right 
or wrong is first weighed in its relations to bread and butter ; I thank 
God that in this diluvial period of materialism one man is found 
who can go crazy for an idea one who can rave like a half -clad 
John in the desert for the path of God to be made straight, and 
declare the axe laid to the root of the tree ! . . . I arraign as the 
arch-criminal in this case the United States Government that 
wretched mother who almost makes parricide a virtue. The United 
States Government has, by its crimes against one race of God s human 
children, made the very blood in best hearts beat with indignation 
against its laws. Look you, they would make it patriotic for me 
to grind my brother to powder ! Yes, an immortal child of God, 
a brother of Christ, may pause at my door, the demon of hunger 
may be gnawing at his vitals, his naked back yet quivering with cruel 
marks may call for oil for the wound and shelter from the blast, 
and the general government says, " Close your hand, tighten your 
purse-strings, slam your door in his face ; the crueller you are the 
more virtuous will I hold you the more pitiless, the more patriotic ! " 

I further declared that the abolitionists, being non-resistants, 
would " denounce the method " of Brown. In this I was mis 
taken. After the sermon Judge Stallo took me to his house 
and argued earnestly against my view and my extreme peace 
principles. Then came the voices of anti-slavery men in the 
East even Garrison, equally the apostle of peace and of liberty, 
applauding Brown with such enthusiasm that his increasingly 
mild rebukes of Brown s method were lost like the still small 
voice amid earthquake and tempest. Also Emerson, from whose 
essay on War I was continually drawing, spoke at Concord of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 26; 

those " who cry, Madman ! when a hero passes," and said that 
" if John Brown died on the gallows he would make it glorious 
like a cross." * 

Had the State of Virginia shown any magnanimity or even 
calmness at this invasion by nineteen fanatics, who had not slain 
a man nor liberated a negro, the evil results of that raid might 
have been averted. But Governor Wise of Virginia \vas a 
misnamed man ; by inflated speeches he raised a molehill into 
a volcano, and threw the State into a panic. It suited the pro- 
slavery government at Washington to use the raid as an indict 
ment against anti-slavery agitators everywhere, and the canonisa 
tion by these of John Brown as a hero and martyr became in 
evitable. 

For six weeks the eyes of the whole country were fixed on 
the prison of John Brown, from which came reports of his un 
failing courage, anecdotes that raised the popular estimate of the 
man, and tender messages to his family and his friends which 
moved the hearts of millions. The pathos of the situation drew 
away attention from John Brown s crime ; that the Virginia 
authorities could carry that old man to the scaffold was ascribed 
by his sympathisers to the power of slavery to turn hearts to 
stone. In those weeping Northern homes no allowance was made 
for the terror which Brown s invasion had struck into Southern 
homes, where parents sat trembling with their children ; and 
not without reason, for the governor of Virginia and the Northern 
pro-slavery politicians had for their own purposes created a belief 
in the South that Brown s invasion was the precursor of negro 
insurrection and an attack by the whole North ; and thus the 
seeming heartlessness of a really defensive execution raised in 
the North a storm of passionate resentment which confirmed 
Southern terrors. 

By that Northern storm I was carried off my feet. The 
calm judgment given in my discourse of October 23 against the 

* When Emerson was lecturing in Cincinnati early in 1860, Edmund 
Dexter, Sr., a wealthy citizen, called, and referring to the reports of his 
speech at Concord, said, " Surely you cannot approve of that raid of 
John Brown ? " Emerson answered, " If I should tell you why I do 
not you might not like it any better." Mr. Dexter was more independent 
than Emerson supposed, and was among the leading citizens who re 
quested the publication of my sermon in vindication of Thomas Paine. 



268 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

raid was swept away by the enthusiasm and tears of my anti- 
slavery comrades. John Brown was executed on December 2, 
1859, an d two days later my sermon exalted him to the right 
hand of God. I did not indeed retract my testimony against 
the method of bloodshed except by implication. 

I set aside the human wisdom of this movement. I set aside 
the question of the abstract rectitude of the method. The stature 
of the hero dwarfs such considerations. It was his conviction of 
duty that is enough. . . . Where heroism comes, where self-devotion 
comes, where the sublime passion for the right comes, there God 
comes ; there a will unmeasurable by all prudential gauges is executed, 
and we may as well question the moral propriety of a streak of light 
ning or an earthquake as of that deed. 

Three months later appeared James Redpath s volume, " The 
Public Life of Captain John Brown." Redpath was a friend 
and follower of Brown, but there were revelations in his book 
that made me " hedge " a little. In noticing the book in the 
Dial, March, 1860, I wrote : 

This work contains the materials for the true life of the new 
Peter the Hermit, who sought to redeem the Holy Places of Humanity. 
This life must be written from a philosophical standpoint co-ordinate 
in elevation to Brown s intent, and must not justify to us Gideon 
and Samuel and the other model barbarians, whom we venerate at 
a distance of five thousand years, but would imprison for life in any 
civilised community. John Brown s method of dealing with slavery 
was apiece with his false theology and his uncultured mind ; his 
virtue, his fidelity, are what makes the world fit to live in. 

It was only long afterwards that little by little came out 
facts that convinced me that Brown had secured money for his 
violent purpose by concealing that purpose, involving thus the 
names of eminent men, and also had led some of his small band 
to their death by similar concealment. In my novel " Pine and 
Palm " (1887) Captain Brown (alias Gideon) figures in a light 
that could not please his admirers, but it is better than I could 
find for him now when, reading his career by the light of subse 
quent history, I am convinced that few men ever wrought so 
much evil. 

On either side of the grave of a largely imaginary Brown 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 269 

wrathful Northerners and panic-stricken Southerners were speedily 
drawn up into hostile camps, and the only force was disarmed 
that might have prevented the catastrophe that followed. Up 
to that time the anti-slavery agitation had marched on the path 
of peace, and every year had brought further assurance of a high 
human victory in which South and North would equally triumph. 
But now we were all Brown s victims even we anti-slavery 
men, pledged to the methods of peace. In my sermon already 
quoted, on Brown s death, I did entreat that we should all " do 
a manly Christian part in the development of his deed, and in 
controlling it, lest it pass out of the lawful realm of the Prince of 
Peace," but the plea was lost under my homage to the insanity 
of a man who had set the example of lynching slave-holders. 
Too late I repented. For other anti-slavery men there might 
be some excuse ; at least it appears to me now that there had 
remained in nearly every Northern breast, however liberal, some 
unconscious chord which Brown had touched, inherited from the 
old Puritan spirit and faith in the God of War. I had been 
brought up in no such faith, but in the belief that evil could be 
conquered only by regeneration of the evil-doer. 

I had, however, been influenced by my youthful optimism to 
adopt the doctrine of a deity that " shapes our ends, rough- 
hew them how we will." When civil war began to threaten the 
country, I did, indeed, modify my divinity. With some satis 
faction I find in the Cincinnati Enquirer a letter signed " A 
Soldier of the Constitution," written after hearing one of my 
sermons, which says : " Any man professing to be a Christian 
minister, who classes Jehovah, the Christian s God, in the same 
category with Mars and Jupiter and Odin, the barbarous and 
licentious creations of a heathen imagination, and says, as did 
Mr. Conway, that our God of Battles is no better than these 
pagan deities, should be indicted under the statute against 
blasphemy, if there be one in your state laws." 

There was in Cincinnati a small society of so-called " infidels " 
who gathered every Sunday afternoon in a room on Fourth 
Street. I attended some of their meetings, taking an obscure 
corner place. The speakers were partisans, the most prominent 
of them Englishmen who, with somewhat faulty grammar, had 
good sense and a certain rude eloquence. I was impressed by the 



2 ;o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

fact that although these men had no belief in God or immortality, 
nearly every speech expressed enthusiastic homage for Thomas 
Paine, a fervent apostle of theism. Paine had become to them 
more than the founder of a deistic church ; he was the standard- 
bearer and apostle of religious freedom ; to these freethinkers he 
was what George Fox was to the Quakers and John Wesley to 
the Methodists. 

In early life I had heard Paine occasionally mentioned by 
preachers with abhorrence, but it was only in Cincinnati that 
I discovered that those denunciations were of interest to me as 
a student of myths and legends. In listening to the freethinkers 
in their humble hall I became aware of the large mythology 
grown and growing around Thomas Paine. Through their ex 
posures of the traditional calumnies of Paine I discovered that 
in his legend there were traces of the old folk-tales of the Wander 
ing Jew and of Faust. These clerical fictions also reminded me 
that towers may be measured by the shadows they cast. I could 
not help being interested in a writer whom Jehovah was said to 
have chosen for the object of his special wrath. In my un 
prejudiced investigation I found evidence that Paine was the 
first to raise the standard of American independence ; that it 
was he who had converted to that cause Washington, Franklin, 
John Adams, Jefferson, and other statesmen ; that in all the 
course of the Revolution his services had been unwearied, dis 
interested, and of an importance proclaimed by George Washing 
ton and by Congress. 

The immediate result of these researches was an announce 
ment that on Paine s birthday, January 29, 1860, the subject 
of my sermon would be Thomas Paine. The church was crowded. 
I had feared that my pleading for Paine might excite some 
opposition in my congregation, or at least some remonstrance 
on my imprudence ; but instead of that I received next day a 
request to publish my discourse. It was signed by many eminent 
and wealthy citizens, some of whom did not belong to my con 
gregation ; their letter and names were printed as the preface of 
the sermon, which bore the title " Thomas Paine. A Celebration." 
From that time the freethinkers frequented my church, and I 
arranged that there should be each week an evening of discussion 
with them. I had gained their good will, and Moreau, a leading 






MONCURE D. CONWAY. 271 

writer of their faith for it was a fervent faith dedicated a 
volume to me as the first who had ever uttered from a pulpit any 
word favourable to Paine. 

My vindication of Paine and its unexpected success was felt 
by the freethinkers in Cincinnati as a vindication of themselves 
also, and I felt it my opportunity for grappling with what I 
considered their errors. My theism was not indeed of the Paine 
type I had passed from all dynamic theism to the theism 
evolved from pantheism by the poets but I found that in criti 
cising the opinions of these atheists I had undertaken a difficult 
task. Several of them I remember the names of Colville, 
Miller, and Pickles were shrewd disputants, and steadily drove 
me to reconsider the basis of my beliefs. I entered upon a 
severely logical statement of the corollaries of theism. In a 
course of discourses I had already rejected supernaturalism, 
to the distress of a third of my congregation, this being 
the first time that simple theism had invaded any Western 
pulpit. 

That, however, was less disturbing than a sermon on " God," 
in which I maintained that the creation and government of the 
universe by an omnipotent and omniscient deity was inconsistent 
with any free will. I affirmed that the so-called free agency of 
man was a much over-rated notion. I contended that what 
theologians called the Will of God was a misconception ; an 
all- wise and morally perfect deity could have no freedom. There 
can be but one very best, and to that he must adhere ; the least 
deviation from it would undeify him.* 

* I do not find anything in the Church broil at Cincinnati of sufficient 
interest to dwell on here. The secessionists who went off on account of 
my series of sermons on " Miracles," and established the " Church of the 
Redeemer," were sufficiently numerous for our committee to agree to a 
division of the church property as a measure of peace. But the " Redeemer - 
ites," as they were popularly called, shared in the increasing liberalism 
of the Unitarian denomination to such an extent that when, in 1875, 
I returned from England for a few months, I was welcomed in Cincinnati 
equally by both parties, and had the happiness of delivering the opening 
discourse at their consolidation in one society. This event was the more 
noticeable because of a publicly announced invitation given me by the 
Theodore Parker fraternity in Boston to become their minister. In 
January, 1901, being on a visit to Cincinnati to give a literary lecture, I 



272 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

My theological and philosophical heresies reported in the 
Ohio journals excited discussion far and near. The papers 
teemed with controversial letters, and a magazine became in 
evitable. Its first number appeared in January, 1860, bearing 
the title " The Dial : a monthly magazine for literature, philosophy 
and religion. M. D. Conway, Editor. HOY as non numero nisi 
serenas. Cincinnati : Office, No. 76 West 3rd Street. 1860." 

At the end of my prefatory word it was said : " The Dial stands 
before you, the reader, a legitimation of the Spirit of the Age, 
which aspires to be free : free in thought, doubt, utterance, love, 
and knowledge. It is, in our minds, symbolised not so much by 
the sun-clock in the yard as by the floral dial of Linnaeus, which 
recorded the advancing day by the opening of some flowers and 
the closing of others : it would report the Day of God as recorded 
in the unfolding of higher life and thought, and the closing up of 
old superstitions and evils : it would be a Dial measuring time 
by growth." 

The Dial was well received, had a large subscription list the 
Jews especially interesting themselves and received good 
notices from the Press throughout the State. Ralph Waldo 
Emerson, alluding to the title (that of the magazine edited by 
himself and Margaret Fuller), said he would send me a contribu 
tion if only because of my memory. I was cheered by letters 
from Longfellow, Charles Norton, and Frothingham. Among 
the notices of the Press one moved me deeply. It was in the 
Ohio State Journal, published at Columbus, and is as follows : 

That men should say what they think, outside of Boston, is of 
course astonishing. That they should say what they think, inside of 
Cincinnati, rather relieves the marvellousness of the first astonisher. 
It is not true that men s minds are expanded in proportion as there is 
a good deal of land to the acre ; or that a generous climate and fertile 
soil grow warm, rich hearts. After half a century s stultification 
(we like that newspaper word) the nation is beginning to discover 
that true hospitality, courage, and generosity have their home in 
the North and not in the South. And we all know that the frozen 
hills of New England have sheltered in their bleakest ravines the 

was persuaded to preach in the pretty church they had built at Walnut 
Hills. That brief account of my spiritual pilgrimage in the forty years 
since I left their pulpit was my last sermon. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 273 

spirit of free thought and open speech, after it has been banished from 
the South, the West, and the mercenary cities of the Middle States. 
Until now Boston has been the only place in the land where the in 
alienable right to think what you please has been practised and up 
held. If Cincinnati can place herself beside Boston on this serene 
eminence, she will accomplish a thing nobler than pork, sublimer 
than Catawba, more magnificent than Pike s Opera House. The 
Dial is an attempt on the part of intellectual Cincinnati to do this, 
and the attempt is a noble one. We do not ask anybody to endorse 
the views of M. D. Conway ; but we hold up his course as one of bril 
liant success, in everything that makes success honourable as that 
of a man singularly unselfish and devoted to what he believes 
the truth. He is the editor of the Dial, but the Dial, while it 
represents his views, shows the time of day by every intellectual light 
that shines upon it. It numbers amongst its contributors some of 
the most distinguished thinkers of New England, and it seeks to bring 
out all the thinkers of the West. 

The magazine is two dollars per year the editor to be addressed. 
But let no one who fears plain speech on the most vital subjects sub 
scribe. It is the organ of profound thinkers, merciless logicians, 
and polished writers. 

Something like an old Methodist hallelujah rose to my lips 
when I read that article. It was not because it praised my 
magazine ; the papers were all doing that ; it was because of 
the revelation that a man who could write like that was out 
there in Ohio no farther away than Columbus ! I ran with the 
paper to my wife as if I had found a fortune. And indeed such 
it proved. It was not long before I was meeting the author, 
William Dean Howells, face to face, and not long before I was 
deep in his first book, " Poems of Two Friends " (written jointly 
with J. J. Piatt). The Dial for March, 1860, declared this " the 
most appetising little book," and also said : " Mr. Howells has 
intelligence and culture, graced by an almost Heinesque famili 
arity with high things ; and if it were not for a certain fear of 
himself, we should hope that this work was but a prelude to his 
sonata. As it is, we are not very sure that it would not be well 
to take the anti-publication pledge for a year or so, the time to 
be devoted to amputation of all classics and models which incline 
him to prefer a luxurious sedan to honest limbs given by nature." 
When this was written I had not seen Howells, or my impression 
s 



2 ; 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of his poetry would have been expressed with more lowliness. 
As it was I added : " We should not venture to speak thus had 
we not a real confidence in the genius and promise," etc. Never 
theless it happened to be the first greeting of HowelPs first book ; 
and although when I presently got to know the man I was angry 
with myself at the inadequacy of the notice, it was made much of 
by the young author. Never shall I forget the day when he 
came to see us in Cincinnati. There was about him a sincerity 
and simplicity, a repose of manner along with a maturity of 
strength, surprising in a countenance so young and I must 
add, beautiful that I knew perfectly well my new friend had a 
great career before him. 

The cheer of Howells was all the more precious to me because 
it was animated by a pure literary spirit. I found, however, 
that he had strong anti- slavery feelings, and at that very time 
was writing a Life of Abraham Lincoln. Howells seemed to 
have read everything. At least, whenever I mentioned any 
writer or work I found he had been searching the same. I went 
with him wherever he wished to go in Cincinnati, gladly laying 
aside all work to see as much of him as I could during his brief 
visit. In the evening we went together to the house of Miss 
Nourse, a distinguished teacher, and there Howells first met the 
young lady who became his wife. 

Although Howells was above all the youth of letters and a 
student, his writing was " blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity," 
and I need hardly remind those acquainted with anti-slavery 
history that his widely-copied poem on Margaret Garner, the 
hunted fugitive, was the most important thing inspired by that 
and the like tragic events. As an inspiration of the time I 
know of no poem equal to it. 

Howells contributed four exquisite little poems to my Dial, 
and in that way, as well as by my use of his little book, our circle 
of friends in Cincinnati soon knew what a treasure we had at 
Columbus. 

In the first number of the Dial appeared a tale I had written 
in December, 1859, an d finished at Christmas. During that 
month little was thought of except the execution of John Brown 
and his men. The tale was in three parts, and entitled " Ex- 
calibur : a Story for Anglo-American Boys." It purports to be 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 275 

told by an uncle to his nephews and nieces during Christmas 
time in two successive years, the name of the home, " Kenmore," 
being a remembrance of the home of Washington s sister (Mrs. 
Fielding Lewis) in Fredericksburg, Va. On Christmas Eve uncle 
Paul, entreated for a story, relates that of " Excalibur," the 
wonderful sword made by a nymph under the sea and coming to 
Arthur, who alone could draw it from the stone in which it was 
set. In his hand, because it struck only for justice, it never 
failed. The dying King Arthur had it hurled into the sea. In 
the second part uncle Paul relates how, after many centuries, a 
fisherman found the sword in his net and brought it to Frederick 
the Great, who wears and wields it when delivering oppressed 
countries from Austria ; and finally sends it to George Washing 
ton, engraved with the words : " From the oldest General in the 
world to the greatest. ," Part the third is told by uncle Paul a year 
later, 1859, ano ^ relates to John Brown of Harper s Ferry, con 
cluding as follows : 

At last the old man went down into the same neighbourhood 
where Excalibur had gone. A divine madness seized upon him ; 
as it is written, " Oppression maketh a wise man mad " but whether 
such madness be not the wisdom of God, which is foolishness with men, 
we are not all calm enough now to judge. Soon John Brown bore in 
his hand the never-failing sword Excalibur ! In his hand it conquered 
a whole nation. Presently twenty-nine other nations came to help 
the one, and this old man and his sons were taken prisoners, but not 
till then ; such is the power of the sword which strikes for Justice 
and Liberty. 

On the second day of December, 1859, they hanged that old man 
by the neck until he was dead for loving his neighbour as himself, 
for stooping to heal the wounded Jew, for remembering those who 
are in bonds as bound with them. But as he died he was more vic 
torious than he had ever dreamed of being ; he melted a million 
hearts and poured them into the moulds of Freedom. 

Excalibur still waits the hand of its next true King, who will 
be he that can conquer without it. It has made its wound, piercing 
beneath the scales of the Dragon ; and that wound can never be healed. 
His fierce writhings and threatenings only tell us how the blow 
touched the seat of life. 

Let us trust that it need never strike again ! Let us pray that 
about it may grow up a people who know the power of the Sword 



2/6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of the Spirit, the Love that never faileth ; and who may wield the 
weapon which is not carnal so truly that the strongholds of Evil 
shall fall and the kingdom of Purity and Peace be established. 

My scepticism was evidently limited to subjects within the 
scope of my profession. The conventionalised Frederick was 
accepted without question, and the legend of his sending an 
inscribed sword to George Washington was with equal confidence 
revived and given the stamp of authenticity. 

Some years later, when Carlyle told me that the story of 
Frederick s sending a sword to George Washington was an absurd 
fiction, I searched into the matter and found that he was right ; 
and later I found reason to believe that it was through John 
Brown s effort and delay in getting hold of that fabulous sword 
that he and his men lost their lives. Really sacrificed to a small 
superstition about a very insignificant sword it is now in the 
State Library at Albany Brown and his men were regarded as 
" martyrs " in the North, while the panic they caused in the 
South led the way to the civil war. Such was the disastrous 
result of what appeared a pretty myth. 

Soon after my tale appeared I received a round robin of 
thanks for it from the entire Fremont family parents and children 
which set me dreaming when, early in the war, General Fremont 
issued his proclamation of emancipation in Missouri, which 
President Lincoln cancelled. 

The Dial of December, 1860, opened with " A Parting Word," 
and this began : " With this number the publication of the 
Dial ceases. The simple reason for this is that the editor is 
unable to bear the labour it adds to his usual and necessary 
duties." At the close the epitaph of my magazine is given in 
the word " Resurgam." 

The Dial at the end of the first year was really slain by the 
Union war several months in advance of its outbreak. For five 
months after the election of President Lincoln, while the farther 
Southern States were seceding, the struggle was between the 
anti-slavery and the Unionists who proposed pacification of the 
Secessionists by a total surrender of Freedom. We at Cincinnati 
were in the very thick of this conflict of pens and words, and it 
was impossible to continue the literary and philosophical dis- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 277 

cussions of the Dial. Promising to register only " serene hours," 
the Dial closed up under the persistent storm, and its hope of 
resurrection also perished. 

But in the year that it lasted my magazine merited the praise 
bestowed on it by Howells and other literary men. Should the 
time arrive when the West is interested in its intellectual and 
religious history, the Dial will be found a fair mirror of the move 
ments of thought in that period of " extraordinary, generous 
seeking." An able work by Octavius B. Frothingham ran 
through nine numbers of the Dial " The Christianity of Christ." 
This work, which filled 130 pages, is by no means a series of 
sermons, but an original critical treatise representing the scholar 
ship and genius of New York s brilliant minister. 

Emerson contributed " The Sacred Dance " (song of the 
Spinning Dervish, translated from Von Hammer s Redektinste) ; 
twelve quatrains ; and an essay on " Domestic Life " (one of his 
finest).* I also printed an early address of Emerson s, long 

* With reference to this article for which I was hoping, and to the 
death of Theodore Parker, Emerson wrote, June 6, 1860 : 

" My dullness and incapacity at work has far exceeded any experience 
or any fear I had of it. It has left me more time lately to do nothing, 
in many attempts to arrange and finish old manuscripts for printing, than 
ever before I think to do what I could best. For the scrap of paper 
that I was to send you, after visiting Philadelphia Dr. Furness, when he 
came here, told me it was not to go. Then I kept it to put into what will 
not admit anything peaceably, my Religion chapter, which has a very 
tender stomach on which nothing will lie. They say the ostrich hatches 
her egg by standing off and looking at it, and that is my present secret of 
authorship. Not to do quite nothing for you, I long ago rolled up and 
addressed to you an ancient manuscript lecture called Domestic Life, 
and long ago, you may be sure, familiar to Lyceums, but never printed 
except in newspaper reports. But I feared you would feel bound to print 
it, though I should have justified yon if you had not printed a page. 

" For the question you now send me, all this is the answer. I have 
nothing to say of Parker. I know well what a calamity is the loss of his 
courage and patriotism to the country ; but of his mind and genius, few 
are less accurately informed than I. It is for you and Sanborn and many 
excellent young men who stood in age and sensibility hearers and judges 
of all his discourse and action for you to weigh and report. I have 
just written to his society, who have asked me to speak with Phillips in 
the funeral oration, that I will come to hear, not to speak (though I shall 
not refuse to say a few words in honour). My relations to him are quite 



2 ;8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

out of print, given on the anniversary of West Indian Emanci 
pation. 

Dr. M. E. Lazarus, a native of North Carolina, who had 
enjoyed the friendship of A. Toussenel in Paris, translated for me 
some interesting passages from that mystic and naturalist ; also 
Balzac s " Ursula " and " A Drama on the Sea-Shore." 

There was one article by Dr. Lazarus " True Principles of 
Emancipation " which I sometimes revert to even now as a 
wonderful example of individual utopianism. It appeared in 
April, 1860, during the excitement following the execution of 
John Brown and preceding the nomination of Abraham Lincoln, 
when everybody had his post in some political regiment every 
body except this " native of North Carolina and Citizen of the 
World," as his paper was superscribed. The negroes, he declares, 
possess many fine qualities, which are all ignored by the 
domineering Anglo-Norman. " The prolonged crucifixion of 
a martyr race demands a resurrection more humane than 
the liberty of selling oneself by the day, the cut-throat compe 
titions of labour for wages, the outrages sanctioned by 
prejudice against colour, careworn indigence, or paralysed 
pauperism. Such emancipation would be but an exchange 
of evils for a race whose happiness consists in the obedience 
excited by kindness. We all want liberty in general for the 
pleasure of surrendering it in particular and at discretion, just 
as we desire money for the purpose of spending it. It rests with 
the Southern Woman to render the whole slave code a dead letter 
by taking care that the services in every home between white 
and black shall be not under commands or menaces, but mutual, 
spontaneous, polite, affectionate the inferior obeying from 
charm the will of the superior." 

My editorial experiences brought me into contact with a 
number of people possessing something like genius, and from 

accidental, and our differences of method and working such as really re 
quired and honoured all his Catholicism and magnanimity to forgive in 
me. 

" So I shall not write you an essay. Nor shall I in this mood, whilst I 
am hunted by printers (who do not nobly forgive as you do), hope for 
reformation. 

" But can you not, will not you come to Boston to speak to this occa 
sion of eulogies of Parker ? " 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 279 

some of them I expected large results. Myron B. Benton, for 
instance, wrote exquisite poems in the Dial, one of them, " Orchis," 
surpassingly beautiful. I visited him in his charming home in 
Duchess County, New York, where he lived a retired life. The 
sweet and delicate poet (he died near the close of 1902) was an 
enigma to me ; but perhaps he had discovered with Shakespeare 
" the blessedness of being little." 

One day there entered my library a middle-aged man over 
six feet tall, with a shaggy head, strong features, large all-seeing 
dark eyes, announced as Orson Murray. He lived out in the 
country somewhere, and brought me an essay " On Prayer." He 
supposed I would not publish it, but I did, and it made an ex 
plosion like a bomb. Orson was a sort of John Brown whose 
Harper s Ferry was Orthodoxy, but there was no blunder or 
miscarriage in this raid on Prayer ; and he made a strong point 
about Brown, for whose rescue so many prayed. If Peter, Paul, 
and Silas could be delivered from prison in answer to prayer, 
why not John Brown ? " He was a better man than either 
Peter or Paul. It is not recorded of him that he was ever 
guilty of betraying his Master or of persecuting his Master s 
church." 

I appended to this article a defence of prayer as being a part 
of nature like the songs of birds, and to be improved by culture. 

More than 200 articles (amounting to 778 pages, 8vo) were 
published in the Dial, of which I wrote 30, besides 70 critical 
notices of new books. 

In July I assisted at a welcome to Hawthorne on his return 
from Europe. It was at a dinner of the Literary Club in Boston. 
Of the large number present everyone except the guest of honour 
had groaned under the pro-slavery administration of President 
Pierce, elected, as some of us believed, by Hawthorne s biography 
of him. Yet such is the privilege of genius that instead of the 
lese-majest^ of saying the author of " The Scarlet Letter " had 
sold himself for a consulate, we had said of the odious President, 
" After all, he did save Hawthorne from poverty ! " At the 
head of the table sat Agassiz, Hawthorne on his right, Emerson 
on his left or perhaps Longfellow Holmes and Lowell near. 
Hawthorne s repose was striking beside the vivacity of Agassiz, but 
he did not sustain his reputation for shyness. I was not near 



280 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

enough to hear what he said, but remarked his animation, and 
the fine candour of his expression. He appeared little older than 
when I had seen him seven years before, and in a sense improved 
by his heavy moustache, though this concealed the feminine 
sweetness of his mouth. There were no speeches at the dinner, 
which I remember as the happiest I ever attended in America. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

Abraham Lincoln in Cincinnati Anti-slavery Men Emerson Facing a 
Mob My Sermon against War Outbreak of War Delusions about 
Fort Sumter Liberty in Peril Sumner and Furness Preachers 
Visit to Eagleswood Meeting my Mother The Virginia Conven 
tion Wendell Phillips The Bull Run Rout Emerson and the 
Saturday Club Horace Greeley Frothingham and Beecher My 
Lectures in Ohio Hon. C. L. Vallandigham. 

ONE warm evening in 1859, passing through the market-place 
in Cincinnati, I found there a crowd listening to a political speech 
in the open air. The speaker stood in the balcony of a small 
brick house, some lamps assisting the moonlight. I had not 
heard of any meeting, and paused on the skirts of the crowd from 
curiosity, meaning to stay only a few moments. Something about 
the speaker, however, and some words that reached me, led me 
to press nearer. I asked the speaker s name, and learned that it 
was Abraham Lincoln. 

Browning s description of the German professor, " three 
parts sublime to one grotesque," was applicable to this man. 
The face had a battered and bronzed look, without being hard. 
His nose was prominent, and buttressed a strong and high fore 
head ; his eyes were high-vaulted and had an expression of 
sadness ; his mouth and chin were too close together, the cheeks 
hollow. On the whole Lincoln s appearance was not attractive 
until one heard his voice, which possessed variety of expression, 
earnestness and shrewdness in every tone. The charm of his 
manner was that he had no manner ; he was simple, direct, 
humorous. He pleasantly repeated a mannerism of his opponent 
" This is what Douglas calls his gur-reat per-rinciple " ; but 
the next words I remember were these : " Slavery is wrong ! " 

Cincinnati is separated from Kentucky only by the narrow 
Ohio, which is overlooked in its deep bed, so that the streets 
of the town on the Kentucky side appear as continuations of 



282 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

some in Cincinnati ; one might see the slaves at their work. 
Kentuckians swarmed over to our political meetings, and their 
large contingent was revealed at this Lincoln meeting by the 
murmurs and hisses that followed his declaration, " Slavery is 
wrong ! " The John Brown raid had not yet occurred, or the 
anger might have been more serious. The speaker waited a 
moment without sign of perturbation, then said : "I find that 
every man comes into the world with a mouth to be fed and a 
back to be clothed ; that each has also two hands ; and I infer 
that those hands are meant to feed that mouth and to clothe 
that back. And I warn you that any institution that deprives 
them of that right, and the rights deducible from it, strikes at 
the very roots of natural justice, which is also political wisdom." 
Then he added with solemnity, " Slavery is wrong ; and no com 
promise, no political arrangement with slavery, will ever last 
which does not deal with it as wrong." 

When in the following year Mr. Lincoln was nominated for 
the Presidency, and his speeches were collected for circulation 
as a campaign document, the above sentences were omitted, but 
there were included the further and more far-reaching words, 
" The government is expressly charged with the duty of providing 
for the general welfare. We believe that the spreading out 
and perpetuity of the institution of slavery impairs the general 
welfare." 

The words " and perpetuity " were of startling import, in 
volving not merely the restriction of slavery but its extinction. 
I printed them in capitals in the Dial, and cast my vote for 
Lincoln. It was the only vote I ever did cast for a President, 
having in Washington had no vote, and in later years no faith in 
any of the candidates or in the office. 

On his way to Washington for inauguration Lincoln received 
an ovation in Cincinnati. Evergreen arches spanned the streets ; 
the banners of German, Italian, and Polish societies mingled 
with the stars and stripes ; the streets were lettered with mottoes 
in every language. When the procession ended, and the President 
had made his last bow and turned to enter his hotel, it was said 
his eyes were filled with tears. Seven Southern States had se 
ceded, and a majority of the nation already demanded pacifica 
tion of the South by concessions to slavery. Lincoln had not 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 283 

been elected by a majority of the nation ; had not three oppos 
ing candidates been in the field, he could not have received a 
majority of the electoral votes. Cincinnati alone gave him an 
ovation on his way. A plot to assassinate him in Baltimore 
was escaped only by his passing through that city in 
disguise, an omen of the humiliation presently undergone by a 
disguise of the anti-slavery principles ascribed to him. It 
seemed almost incredible that this first President elected by 
the new Republican party should in his inaugural have approved 
a proposed amendment to the Constitution in these terms : 

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will 
authorise or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere within 
any State with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of 
persons held to labour or service by the laws of said States. 

This amendment had passed Congress before Lincoln s in 
auguration ; he said that regarding it as a proposal to make the 
existing limit on Federal power perpetual he had no objection 
to it. 

And this was the man who had declared in his Cincinnati 
speech, as above cited, that the " perpetuity " of slavery impairs 
the " general welfare " he had sworn to promote. 

Abraham Lincoln had also before nomination put himself on 
public record in these words : " There is no reason in the world 
why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated 
in the Declaration of Independence the right to life, liberty, 
and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled 
to them as the white man." It was such utterances as these 
that bore Lincoln into the White House, caught as they presently 
were on hearts bleeding with sorrow at the execution of John 
Brown. 

When the Southern States began to secede, the anti -slavery 
disunionists regarded the amputation as their victory. For 
myself the idolatry of the Union associated with Webster and 
Clay, and afterwards with Lincoln, was inconceivable except as 
a commercial interest ; I was not brought up in any such atmo 
sphere in Virginia, nor had I been trained in any patriotic senti 
ment for the South as a section. My enthusiasm had been for 
slavery, and it turned into an enthusiasm for humanity which 



284 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

naturally sympathised with Garrison ; the Union appeared to 
me an altar on which human sacrifices were offered not merely 
in the millions of negroes, but even more in the peace and har 
mony of the white nation. I hated violence more than slavery, 
and, much as I disliked President Buchanan, thought him right 
in declining to coerce the seceding States ; his belief that he had 
no such authority appeared to prevail.* The vast interests 
involved in the Union were beginning to be heard, but the only 
signs of war in 1860 were not against the South ; the abolitionists 
were assailed as the enemy, and the Republicans began to deny 
and swear at them with all the timid oaths of Peter. 

It would be an interesting task for some litterateur to gather 
from the American newspapers the dramatic incidents of the 
anti-slavery agitation. I remember James Russell Lowell re 
marking with some regret that the popularity of abolitionism 
had ended its era of picturesqueness. He remembered seeing 
some fine old radicals coming into the grand gatherings in Boston 
wearing the battered hats and torn coats which bore witness to 
their encounter with the mob. It was their doctrine that such 
violence was due to the faithlessness of the churches. Lowell had 
seen handsome and eloquent Stephen Foster standing with a 
battered hat and beginning his speech, " This hat was crushed 
for me by the church in Portland ! " Parker Pillsbury took the 
platform in a coat whose complete rent down the back he turned 
round to show, an attention he had received from the clergy of 
some other city. The last mobs, which occurred while the first 
secessions were taking place, were not those of roughs put up to 
their work by rich men, but of a well-dressed class, whose aim 
was to silence the meetings in order to pacify the South Hearing 
of these attempts to suppress freedom of speech, Ralph Waldo 
Emerson felt it his duty to attend the next meeting and take his 
place at the post of danger. It was in Tremont Temple, Boston, 
which was invaded by a noisy mob. Wendell Phillips, who gave 
me an account of the meeting, told me that after one or two 
speakers (Garrison was absent) had vainly tried to make them 
selves heard, he did his best, but secured only a brief interval of 

* A long suppressed speech of Daniel Webster made in 1814, pub 
lished in 1903, maintains the right of secession; and John Quincy 
Adams held the same doctrine. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 285 

attention. But in turning toward his seat he caught sight of 
Emerson looking calmly on the wild scene. He went to him and 
whispered. Emerson advanced ; the roughs continued their 
noise for a time, but he stood with such beaming composure that 
there was a break in the roar. Emerson began : " Christopher 
North you have all heard of Christopher North." There was 
perfect silence, as if the name paralysed every man. Not one 
of them had ever heard of Christopher North, but this assumption 
of their intelligence by the intellectual stranger disarmed them. 
Emerson told his story of Christopher North that he once 
defended his moderation in having only kicked some scoundrels 
out of the door instead of pitching them out of the window, and 
\vent on to show that, under the circumstances, the abolitionists 
had exercised moderation. The power of mind over matter 
was happily displayed in the attention with which that mad 
crowd listened to Emerson, who spoke admirably. 

A few threatening notes were sent me in Cincinnati at this 
time, and on one occasion a dozen roughs, armed with heavy 
canes, took possession of the front pews, to the exclusion of pew 
owners. This was on the first anniversary of John Brown s 
execution. My announced subject was " War," and I suppose 
the roughs were Kentuckians who expected me to urge a war on 
the South, for they soon all filed out. 

Were it not for the subjoined extract from that discourse I 
should have said that up to that time (December 2, 1860) 
coercion of the seceded States was not seriously thought of : 

In nearly every nation of the world there is a fight going on. 
But not one of them could we call, in Paul s phrase, " a good fight." 
No doubt the remote cause of some of these wars is a good cause 
that most sacred right of the human soul, Liberty. . . . But that 
cannot be a good fight which desolates hearts and homes ; that 
cannot be in any sense good which takes away from matron and 
maid the noble youth and glorious man, in form and nature the 
flower of the world, and restores him a ghastly and bleeding corpse 
to their yearning arms. What are nationalities to the hearts of men 
and women ? Of no value unless they protect the homes of men, 
professedly existing only to furnish such protection, nationalities 
are stains upon the globe when they purchase their soulless cor 
poration life with the human happiness they should foster. ... I 



286 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

grieve to see the barbarous attempts of certain journals and men to 
threaten certain portions of our nation with the mere brute force of a 
nationality. The Constitution gives them no right to secede, it is said ; 
therefore they shall be held with clamps of force. " If they try it they 
are traitors." Treason is a fictitious crime a made-up crime ; treason 
to one nation is often heroism to another. Every man who struck 
a blow for American Independence was a traitor to England. . . . 
Kossuth is a traitor at home, but a hero here. And so, on this con 
tinent, if it be attempted to set a mere cold national interest a 
question of law and boundaries against the integrity of homes and 
hearts and humanities, I believe that it will be found that the American 
people have gone too far to value any parchment above the human 
welfare it was made to promote and will trample under foot any bond 
which would make them cut the pound of flesh from a brother s 
breast. 

Before a gun was fired, two-thirds of the Southern people 
were opposed to secession, and nearly all at the North opposed 
to coercing the seceded States.* But it was evident that the 
seven States that had seceded could not maintain a separate 
empire without the adhesion of the more important slave States. 
Jefferson Davis knew every pro-slavery leader in the States not 
yet seceded, and saw that the only means of bringing any of 
those States into the Confederacy would be a challenge to the 
Union that could not be evaded. President Lincoln, who though 
a Kentuckian in sentiment had no familiarity with slavery and 
no knowledge of the New South with its pro-slavery religion, 
endeavoured to move its heart in his pathetic inaugural address 
from the steps of the Capitol. He said, " In your hands, my 
dissatisfied fellow-citizens, and not in mine, is the momentous 
issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You 
can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. 
You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, 
while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and 
defend it." But in thus appealing to a friendliness that did 
not exist, and adding the word "preserve" to his oath (a word 
not in the constitutional formula) President Lincoln signalled to 
the Confederates the programme on which they might count. 

* I was told that when Senator Mason of Virginia heard that his State 
had elected a convention opposed to secession he remarked, " It is gen 
tlemen who make revolutions." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 287 

They had only to fire on the United States, and a conflict would 
begin which would compel the hesitating slave States to take 
sides. 

The opportunity was at hand. Fort Sumter, near Charleston, 
property of the United States but on the territory of South 
Carolina, was held by a handful of soldiers, who, having refused 
to surrender the fort, were fired upon by the Confederate com 
mander Beauregard. After a defence of thirty-four hours the 
terms of Beauregard were accepted, and on Sunday afternoon, 
April 14, 1861, the Union forces marched out from the burning 
fort, saluting their tattered flag with fifty guns.* 

Not a man on either side had been killed, but never did shot 
carry more widespread destruction than that which fell on Fort 
Sumter. That shell sent its fatal fragments into every community. 
I remember well the evening when the tidings reached Cin 
cinnati. A company of ladies and gentlemen which met every 
week to study German literature had gathered at the house of 
Judge Hoadly ; someone brought us the terrible news, and we 
all silently arose and parted, never to meet again for our studies. 
Other clubs and literary societies also closed. And what oc 
curred in our city occurred everywhere. Students left their 
colleges, artists their studios ; a new era was marked on the 
land as if on a weird Linnsean dial, with the closing of all fair and 
sweet flowers of civilisation and the unfolding of blood-red 
flowers of war. 

On the Sunday following the surrender of Sumter and the 
President s call for seventy-five thousand soldiers, we passed 
into our church beneath the United States flag one at each 
door, and when I ascended to the desk the large assembly rose 
and sang the " Star-spangled Banner." We were all overcome 
with emotion, and it was some time before I could utter a word. 
My sermon, which was on " The Peril and the Hope of the Hour," 

* I am informed by Judge Pryor, now of New York, who was at the 
time in Charleston, that he was requested to fire the last gun, but declined 
because his State, Virginia, was not yet out of the Union. At that 
moment came up the Hon. Edmund Rufnn, the earliest secessionist. A 
native of Virginia, he was then a resident in South Carolina, and willingly 
responded to the request which Pryor declined. This learned and eminent 
man, Edmund Rufnn, fired the first and the last gun of the war : when 
he heard of Lee s surrender he shot himself dead. 



288 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the text being, " Be ye angry and sin not ; let not the sun go 
down upon your wrath," opened as follows : 

How can I answer, fellow citizens, your anxious faces, appealing 
eyes, and throbbing hearts, so earnestly calling : Watchman, what 
of the night ? The eye that sleeps not alone sees how soon all " still 
small voices " may be drowned amid the strong wind and earth 
quake and fire of civil war ; therefore will I thank God for this quiet 
morning hour, and in it utter the burden of my heart. Sights and 
sounds, strange and sad, fill the air. Some manly forms and noble 
young faces we miss in our assembly ; alas, how much more are 
they missed at your firesides, and in the hearts which clung to them ! 
Yes, our hearts have followed them ; the arms alone were untwined, 
the hands unclasped of families, lovers, friends our hearts cannot 
be chained back from following our brave men, who have left all to 
defend the imperilled honour and liberty of their country ! On 
their heads, O God of Justice, we invoke thy benediction ; may thy 
kind arm encircle those from whom the arms of mothers and wives 
are withdrawn ; close to thy heart may they be folded ; and may 
they speedily return crowned with that victory which must come as 
surely as that Thou art the God of Right over the Wrong, of Freedom 
over Slavery ! 

The discourse was mainly a defence of the President for 
defending Fort Sumter, on which the national interest had centred 
for months, and which had become a sort of test case of his 
attitude towards slavery the causa causans of secession. De 
spatches from Washington, apparently authorised, declared that 
the President had been compelled by his oath of office to hold 
Fort Sumter, and alarmed us about Washington, where the Con 
federacy might presently be seated and " dictate the terms of 
the division which we all knew must come in the end." These 
words are quoted from my sermon, and are evidence that the 
troops called for by the President were supposed to be for defence 
solely. The general dealing with secession was, of course, it 
was assumed, to be determined by Congress, which alone pos 
sessed the war power. Although there was some wonder that in 
such a crisis the President had not summoned Congress at once 
instead of for a day so late as July 4, no one dreamed that the 
administration meant to assume the right to plunge the nation 
into a war of coercion. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 289 

The country was misled about Fort Sumter. Had it been 
known that defence of that worthless fort was not at all felt by 
the President as his constitutional duty, and was contrary to 
the advice of the military head of the nation, General Winfield 
Scott, as well as of leading cabinet ministers, and that the Presi 
dent had determined on the step because, in his words now known, 
" the country expects it," the response of the nation would have 
been different. Had it been announced to the country that the 
worthless and indefensible old fort was to be abandoned there 
would have been no murmur. The thing feared was " coercion " 
of the nation by slavery, and the country would not have justified 
the President in placing Sumter as a chip on its shoulder, and 
when it was knocked off, staking the fate of millions on a shotgun 
duel with the Confederacy. There was no halo of martyrdom 
around the head of Abraham Lincoln to shed glamour on his 
actions in those days. His attitude was that of a politician who 
had proposed to render slavery eternal by a constitutional 
amendment, and was willing to barter for the Union all the 
anti-slavery enthusiasm which had responded to his summons. 
He had announced that the only thing he would not compromise 
away was his opposition to the extension of slavery into terri 
tories where it did not exist. The North would not have gone to 
war on that pet point of his. It marched to the John Brown 
song to free Uncle Tom from the lash of Legree, and did not 
watch the President as one capable of going to war on his old 
issue of " extensionism," and ready to purchase reunion at the 
price of liberty and justice. " Let us watch," so I urged in that 
first sermon after the fall of Sumter and call for troops, 

Let us watch with eagle eye every compromise offered and every 
treaty. The American arms can win no victory nor conquer any 
peace which shall not be the victory of humanity and peace from the 
wrongs that degrade and afflict humanity. In the Promethean games 
of Greece those who ran in the races all bore lighted torches, and he 
won the race who reached the goal first with his torch still lighted. 
If he reached the goal with his torch extinguished he lost the day. 
It was not, therefore, the swiftest racers who won the prize. In 
deed, the swiftest were more apt to have their torches put out by 
the wind. It is thus with the contest on the American arena. Our 
true prize cannot be won by getting the better of the South in an 

T 



290 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

appeal to arms. What if, when we reach the goal, the torch of Liberty 
entrusted to America to bear in the van of nations be extinguished ! 
What if, by some dishonourable treaty with this or that State which 
would be a good ally in war, we have pledged ourselves to continue 
enslavers of man, and come to claim the prize with the light of that 
sacred torch lost ! Then, indeed, we will have lost the day we seem 
to win ; we have but postponed the revolution which can never 
really end until the throne of Eternal Justice be established on 
earth, and all men gather about it as the children of a common 
Father. 

These quotations may appear egotistical, but the words did 
not proceed altogether from myself. I was in constant consulta 
tion with the most eminent jurists of our city, such as Hoadly, 
Stallo, and Alphonzo Taft, and in correspondence with anti- 
slavery leaders in the East. All of us in those days saw in the 
uprisen North the splendour of a new heaven and a new earth 
responding. We little feared the war cloud while gazing with 
rapture on the rainbow that promised a covenant of perpetual 
peace to our so long distracted country. It may be that my 
own personal sufferings from slavery partly inspired the earnest 
ness with which every Sunday I upheld my vision of God setting 
himself to Satan. Nearly every Sunday the congregation broke 
into applause. But when in May the border States, especially 
Maryland and Kentucky, had their Mephistopheles at President 
Lincoln s ear tempting him to compromise away our cause, 
Cincinnati showed a strong contingent of " Copperheads," as 
they were called, who began to hiss and threaten when my loyal 
hearers applauded. On April 28, in view of the opening of 
Congress on the approaching Fourth of July, taking for my text, 

Thou shalt say No," I warned the people that " Efforts will 
be made there to make America read the Declaration she made 
eighty-five years before backward, and reconstruct the Union by 
accepting the Southern Barabbas and giving humanity to be 
crucified." 

The effect on the Unitarian societies generally of the first 
menaces of war was remarkable. Our old controversies were 
turned to trifles in a moment. Those who had exchanged sharp 
words now clasped hands. Miracles ? Who cared anything 

about what happened in Palestine when at our door was the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 291 

miracle of a New World in transfiguration ! Here was the real 
Advent, the Incarnation, the Angel-song ! 

I am liable, of course, to project into my early memories the 
ideas of later years, but before me are sermons delivered and 
printed at that time of glorious visions. We all saw in the 
President s seventy-five thousand soldiers an army marching, 
not to slay, but to heal, to liberate. 

During the first few months after Lincoln s inauguration the 
crisis grew literally awful. The simple faith with which aboli 
tionists had welcomed the uprising of the North as the great 
dawn of an emancipated America suffered a cruel disenchant 
ment. 

The governors of Ohio (Dennison), Kentucky (Magoffin), and 
Tennessee (Harris) met together ostentatiously in fraternal 
embrace to demonstrate that slavery was not involved in the 
war. The government at Washington was carrying its tenderness 
for slavery to such an extent as to remind the Southerners con 
tinually that the existence of slavery depended on the continuance 
of the Union. "What," said the Secretary of State, "what 
but the obligations of the Constitution can prevent the anti- 
slavery sentiment of this country from assuming at once the Euro 
pean type direct emancipation ? " Pro-slavery clergymen 
warned the border States that if they seceded they would be 
surrounded by free States, and their slaves could not be held. This 
then was the Union for which the flower of American youth was 
perishing a Union whose rivets were one with rivets of the 
slave s manacle. 

At Washington our generals were warned to prevent slaves 
from entering the Federal lines. The impolicy was begun which 
was persisted in until in two years more fugitive slaves had been 
returned into slavery under our first Republican President than 
under all preceding Presidents put together since the foundation 
of the government ! I have said " impolicy," for with these 
slaves were excluded the only sources of information concerning 
the " enemy." Three days before the disaster to the Union army 
at Bull Run a special military order was issued for the exclusion 
of negroes, and there is little doubt that the rout was owing to 
General McDowell s ignorance of the Confederate positions, 
concerning which any negro could have informed him. 



292 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

My church being closed after the last Sunday in June for 
two months, I went to Washington. The city was a camp, 
my old church a depository of arms. So had " repelled light 
returned as lightning." The congressmen were assembling, and 
I was present at several consultations of leading Republicans of 
the " left." They were suspicious about the delay of the army, 
feeling that in advance of the opening of the national Congress a 
hole-and-corner congress of Southerners and their northern allies 
was going on in the White House. I witnessed the opening of 
Congress on July 4. The President s message excited my dis 
trust by its entire silence concerning slavery. His long argu 
ment against the alleged State right of secession was not accom 
panied by any plea for the Federal right of armed coercion, to 
which he had committed the country beyond the power of Con 
gress to exercise its supreme authority. 

On my way north I stopped a day at the house of Dr. Furness, 
where I found Senator Sumner. The senator s serenity about 
the national situation was sufficient for him to chat about other 
matters. He told us that in coming through New York he had 
met Horace Greeley, who invited him to come to the house next 
morning to early breakfast. " I went up there," said Sumner, 
" a long distance, and Greeley talked and talked over an hour 
about politics. At last it occurred to him that I had not break 
fasted, and he called up the cook, and asked her if there was 
anything for breakfast. She said that there was some milk and 
bread and cold meat. On that I had to breakfast." The amusing 
thing was the serious disgust manifested by the senator in telling 
it. It rather increased my respect for Greeley that he should be 
so absorbed in the state of the country as to forget breakfast, 
and I probably made that apology for him. (I believe Greeley 
never drank tea or coffee.) Dr. Furness and myself were eager 
to talk about the national crisis. Sumner told us of communica 
tions he had just received showing that there was no danger of 
foreign complications. He believed that the anti-slavery feeling 
of the North would be fully awakened by the logic of events, 
and said that it was the opinion of two-thirds of the men he had 
met that the war could cease only with the termination of slavery. 
He seemed to have faith in Lincoln, and to regard his omission 
in his first message of any reference to slavery as a politic dis- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 293 

guise for the sake of the border States a disguise which would 
be thrown off. Dr. Furness and Sumner both trusted a good 
deal in God. I said that I had heard all my life that God would 
end slavery " in His own good time," but had learned from history 
that when reformation was left to God, He brought it about with 
hell-fire. That, I urged, was just our peril, and it could be averted 
only by using the natural weapon of liberty namely, liberty 
itself. I knew slavery and the slaveholders well ; if the Presi 
dent and Congress should at once declare every slave in America 
free, every Southerner would have to stay at home and guard his 
slaves. There could be no war. We could then pay all the 
owners with the cost of the army for one month. Furness and 
Sumner earnestly accepted my doctrine, and Sumner begged me 
to devote myself to spreading it through the North and West. 

In New York I listened to a characteristic address given by 
Henry Ward Beecher, at the Island of the Two Brothers, to 
the Brooklyn Phalanx. He delighted the soldiers by his ar 
tistically homely eloquence. Expressing his proud resolution 
to fulfil his constitutional duty in running after fugitive slaves, 
he confessed to a liability to be taken suddenly lame on such 
occasions, his acted lameness being funny. He described how, 
in dealing with a rebellious child, you first tried persuasion, then 
bribery, and finally " a sound spanking," which raised a laugh 
in which I could not join. Mrs. Stowe was present, and in fine 
spirits. She was a plain woman, or would have been such 
could one have seen her without the halo of " Uncle Tom s 
Cabin." 

The ministers who once rebuked our anti-slavery sermons 
were now preaching in the same way. The Rev. Dr. Lothrop, 
meeting the Rev. Dr. Bellows, confessed that he could scarcely 
keep from swearing. Dr. Bellows replied that he also had of 
late been tempted, and had found some relief in reading David s 
Psalms about his enemies. In Boston (July 7) I heard young 
Edward Everett Hale, since then become an institution in himself, 
preach before the Peace Society. He said that it would be 
carrying out their peace principles if their Chairman had called 
together all the clergymen of Boston and demanded that each 
should sell his raiment and buy a rifle, and proceed to Washing 
ton to earn the beatitude of the peacemakers. 



294 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

During my summer vacation I was continually preaching 
and lecturing on the theme that filled all minds. On my way 
to Newport, R.I., to preach for my dear friend Charles T. Brooks, 
I travelled with Horace Greeley, who had recently dissolved 
political partnership with Seward and Thurlow Weed. Greeley 
denied earnestly any ill-will toward Seward, but said he had no 
faith in him as a minister. " Seward has, and always must have, 
a policy ; a policy is just what we don t want. We want manli 
ness." He was haunted by fear of a restoration of the slave 
power. " We may wake up some fine morning and find the 
Democratic party wheeled around and united on some base and 
ruinous concession for peace." I found that the pain and re 
sponsibility of editing the Tribune were telling on him sadly. 
He gave me to read an interesting newspaper letter by " Agate " 
(Whitelaw Reid), and in talking it over he deplored his own 
connection with journalism. " A man had better be a hod- 
carrier than a journalist." There was an almost infantine sorrow 
in his eyes as he said this. With the cry of the Tribune at that 
time, " Forward to Richmond ! " (where the Confederate govern 
ment was to fix its capital on July 20) I could not sympathise, 
having still the hope that our armies should only occupy the 
border with camps that should be refuges and asylums for slaves, 
so compelling slaveholders to return to their homes. 

At Eagleswood, N.J., I addressed the school established there 
by Theodore Weld. It was a pioneer institution in many ways, 
the first in which young women were found educating their limbs 
in the gymnasium, rowing in boats, and making records in 
swimming and high diving. Under the tuition of Theodore Weld 
and his wife (one of the famous Grimke sisters of South Carolina, 
who there rebelled against slavery), and under the influence of 
Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Spring, pecuniary founders of the school, its 
anti-slavery sentiment had for many years been of a bold type. 
Mrs. Spring, an accomplished lady, had during the John Brown 
affair gained permission to nurse the survivors in their Virginia 
prison. She had also obtained the bodies of young Hazlitt and 
Stevens, who had longed to be buried in a free land. I was shown 
their graves at Eagleswood. Mr. Spring had obtained a bundle 
of letters and documents found in the establishment of slave- 
dealers in Alexandria, Va. It was strange, indeed, to read amid 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 295 

these happy girls at Eagleswood this correspondence relating 
to the prices and sales of comely girls and boys. I shuddered 
to think that these things had gone on in my native region without 
my ever suspecting their existence, and found that Nemesis had 
become the doorkeeper of that Alexandria slave-pen (Kephart 
& Co.) then (1861) filled with white prisoners.* 

I visited Easton, Pa., to meet my mother and sister, the wife 
of Professor March of Lafayette College. They had just arrived 
Irom Fredericksburg, Va., after a perilous journey of ten days. 
My mother had taken up such strong opinions against secession 
that her continuance in Fredericksburg had become imprudent. 
I wrote down at the time some notes of my mother s statement. 
When it was found that, come what might, the convention at 
Richmond would vote down any ordinance of secession, a secret 
circular was sent to every prominent Democrat in the State, 
demanding his instant appearance in Richmond ; and when 
these had flooded the city the convention was informed that 
unless they would at once put Virginia out of the Union they 
would be superseded by another convention, even if it must be 
done by violence. My mother seemed to think that the majority 
voted for secession with pistols at their heads. In this she was 
mistaken; the majority did not vote for it at all. At the critical 
moment, when the final vote was about to be taken, Lincoln s 
proclamation came demanding of Virginia a quota of troops to 
fight Southerners. The anti-secession leaders then left the 
convention, some of them in tears, and the minority had it their 
own way. Had the President delayed that ill-timed proclama 
tion thirty-six hours, Virginia would have been kept in the 
Union. The convention would have adjourned, and another 
could not have been elected. It was physically impossible. 
My mother told me that her brother, Travers Daniel, had 
pleaded passionately against secession. Some months after 
ward an old Democrat asked him what he was doing ; he 
replied, " Carrying weapons against my country ; it is what you 
and your party have for thirty years been bringing me to." 
He was the attorney-general of Virginia before and after 
the war. 

* I published a resume of the letters in the Tribune, and in 
England. 



296 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

The speeches made by Wendell Phillips during the year 1861 
were the most eloquent ever delivered in America. Several of 
them are found in Redpath s volume of his speeches (1863), 
and may at this day be read with the deepest interest. Emerson, 
after hearing Phillips, said, " A poor negro who cannot read made 
the finest living orator. It is wonderful to see this ornamental 
person, whom one might expect to find in the galleries of Europe, 
devoting himself to the humble slave. His wit reminded me of 
Charles Lamb. A coloured speaker, Charles Remond, alluding 
to George Washington, the slave-holder, called him a 
scoundrel. When Phillips spoke he objected to the epithet. 
It isn t graphic, Charles. If you call George Washington a 
scoundrel, what word have you got left to describe Frank Pierce? : 
Octavius Frothingham told me that the most eloquent speech he 
ever heard was given in New York by Garrison. I have several 
times heard thrilling speeches by Garrison, the charm of which 
was the self-forgetfulness with which he threw himself into his 
subject. 

Garrison gradually became a frank unbeliever in the orthodox 
creeds, and even wrote a vindication of Thomas Paine, but 
Mrs. Stowe said with truth that there was more of the old Hebrew 
prophet about him than about any other man in America. 

On the evening of Sunday, July 21, 1861, I preached in the 
Unitarian church at New Bedford, Mass. The building was 
crowded, the papers having said much of my being from Virginia, 
whose capital had become that of the Confederacy the day before. 
While I stood there picturing an American millennium of liberty 
and peace at hand, thousands of United States soldiers routed at 
Bull Run were lining the roads to Washington with the fleeing 
or the fallen. The New Bedford Quakers were present in good 
number, and grasped my hand because above the armies I upheld 
the banner of Peace, contending that no drop of blood would 
be shed if the President proclaimed freedom for every slave. 
Not one man or woman did I meet in New England who did not 
agree with me in that ; but the President, who assumed the right 
of determining without aid of Congress or court a constitutional 
issue on which statesmen had been divided for generations, and 
on it plunging the nation into war, was scrupulous about touching 
slavery, and on Monday morning the fearful tidings of defeat and 




MONCURE D. CONWAY. 297 



slaughter arrived. The next morning I breakfasted in Boston, 
at the house of the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, with the Rev. 
W. H. Channing, and found them less hopeful than myself of 
the effect of defeat on opening Northern eyes. They were 
justified ; some pulpits began to explain the defeat as a punish 
ment for beginning an attack on Sunday, and the President 
responded by proclaiming a day of fasting and prayer ! Never 
in the history of the world was a tremendous national experience 
more entirely wasted. 

I went to Concord, but optimism had fled even from the 
home of Emerson. The town was in trepidation for the fate of 
several of its youths who had not been heard from since the 
disaster at Manassas. Emerson said, " We need a more scientific 
knowledge of the nature of a rattlesnake, and may be taught by 
this defeat ; but in view of the odds in the late battle it appears 
doubtful whether the same multiplication-table is used in Wash 
ington that prevails in New England." Thoreau, sadly out of 
health, was the only cheerful man in Concord ; he was in a state 
of exaltation about the moral regeneration of the nation. I went 
with Emerson to Boston for the Saturday Club dinner (July 27). 
Motley and Channing were present, and a goodly company as 
sembled to welcome the guests. But I had reason to remember 
the saying of Voltaire, " I hate War ; it spoils conversation." 
Heavy on every mind was the humiliation of the flight of a corps 
of that army which had gone to Washington singing, " We are 
coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand strong ! " 
There was a cruel disillusion, but for myself it related rather to 
the administration than to the soldiers, who had been sent out 
under the order of July 17 not so much to fight slaveholders as 
to catch their escaping slaves for them. Emerson said, " If 
the Union is incapable of securing universal freedom, its 
disruption were as the breaking up of a frog pond. Until 
justice is the aim of war one may naturally rather be shot 
than shoot." 

It was painful to look around that table in the Parker House 
and see the sad faces of the men who represented the great 
literary age of America. The morning stars that had sung to 
gether for joy in the advance of every noble cause were now 
silent. 



298 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

It had been whispered around by anti-slavery men, believed 
to be inspired by the President, that he was really with us, but 
that he could not deal directly with slavery until after some 
military success had placed him in a position to do so. Some 
pressure of that kind had been brought on Horace Greeley, 
resulting in the Tribune s cry, " On to Richmond ! " The ad 
vance was made, the Bull Run disaster followed, and Horace 
Greeley was made the scapegoat. 

Knowing Horace Greeley well, I felt the injustice of the 
public fury against him, and, on hearing that his health had 
broken down under the denunciations, wrote him a letter, to 
which came the following answer : 

NEW YORK, Aug. 17, 1861. 

MY DEAR CONWAY, I have yours of the I3th. I have been very 
ill, and am yet too weak to work, yet am doing so because I must. 
I scarcely slept at all for a week ; now the best I can do is to get two 
or three hours uneasy oblivion every night. But I hope I shall mend. 
The Tribune did suffer considerably by the truth told by Warren, 
etc., about the want of purpose and management at Washington, 
and I think would have been ruined had I not resolved to bend to 
the storm. I did it very badly, for I was all but insane, yet I hope all 
will yet be well with us. You see that everybody is now saying that 
we were right originally with regard to Scott, etc., and that the 
Cabinet ought to be reconstituted. My strong objection to the 
attack on the Cabinet was that it would (because of the momentary 
fury against the Tribune) keep them in when they want to go out. 
No President could afford to have it said that a newspaper had forced 
him to give battle and then turned out his Cabinet because he lost 
that battle. 

My friend, the hour is very dark ; but I have not lost my faith in 
God. If this people is worthy to fight and win a battle for Liberty 
and Law, that battle will be won ; if they are not, I do not see that 
there is any more a place for so weak and poor an instrument as I am. 
If our baseness requires the humiliation of utter discomfiture, that 
will be our portion, and the Father of all Good will work out His holy 
ends through other and purer agencies. In any case, and however 
the end may be postponed and obscured, this infernal Rebellion seals 
the doom of slavery. 

And so, asking your prayers that my unworthiness may no wise 
hinder or postpone the fulfilment of God s benign purposes, I remain, 
Yours, HORACE GREELEY. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 299 

In passing through New York again I was the guest of Octa- 
vius Frothingham, to whose congregation I preached. He 
invited two or three leading men to meet me, among them 
Henry Ward Beecher. We felt it important in the crisis brought 
on by what seemed the restoration of Pierce and Buchanan in 
the President elected as a Republican, that as public teachers 
we should see eye to eye. Beecher was angry enough, but his 
humour was irrepressible. I remarked to him that it was about 
time for some American prophet to imitate the ancient prophet 
and break a big pitcher on Pennsylvania Avenue, proclaiming 
that so should our guilty nation be broken to pieces. He replied, 
" You would only lose your crockery unless you hit somebody." 
They all agreed with my plan of reaching the rebellion by striking 
at its heart, slavery, but only Frothingham seemed to think it 
practicable. 

I went back to Cincinnati somewhat disheartened. At times 
travelling with rough and brutal soldiers, it appeared to me 
horrible that the great and noble cause of freedom should be 
given over to such hands. My journey to Washington and the 
East had been a pilgrimage to the houses of the interpreters in 
search of light to guide me in my own duties as the minister of a 
great church close to the land of slavery. Alas ! the anti- 
slavery fraternity was shattered. The President s determination 
to settle the issue by a duel had flushed our band like a flock of 
wild turkeys, and we could not get together again. In our Virginia 
woods, the sportsman having flushed a flock used a turkey-bone 
whistle, whose imitation of their voices led the poor birds within 
reach of his gun ; and now the fife, pretending to play the march 
of liberty, was leading some of our best abolitionists to espouse a 
suicidal war ! 

Well, I must sound my little pipe as well as I could. I 
brought my own congregation to sympathise with my plan, and 
that was encouraging, for among my hearers were Alphonzo Taft, 
Judge Hoadly, William Greene, Judge Stallo, and some eminent 
business men among these being Learner B. Harrison, late 
president of the First National Bank in Cincinnati. I then 
determined to go through the State of Ohio appealing to the 
people. Senator Sumner and Secretary Chase were consulted 
about this, and said that a number of men in Washington were 



300 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ready to pay me for such lectures. This I refused, for such 
addresses to be useful must be those of a man reared in Virginia, 
son of a slaveholder, and entirely unpaid. But as I wished that 
the lectures should be entirely gratuitous, I agreed that these 
friends at Washington should pay the bills for the halls rented, 
and this was done through Senator Sumner. 

I was astonished at the feebleness of the opposition with 
which my argument for immediate and universal emancipation 
as a war measure was met. At Xenia, where I began, the replies 
invited were not given, but when leaving the hall I found a 
gentleman, pale with excitement, haranguing several hundred 
who had been inside ; as I stepped out of the door I heard him 
say, " Every word was false as hell ! " At Yellow Springs I 
addressed the students in Antioch College. Forty of the young 
men had enlisted in the army, and I believe the female students 
for the first time felt some inferiority . Among the enlisted students 
was a grandson of the famous Alexander Hamilton. He was a 
very attractive youth, and the college president, Thomas Hill, 
told me that he was of upright character and studious. 

Among my hearers at Dayton was Clement L. Vallandigham, 
Member of Congress, leader of the pro-slavery Democrats, who 
replied in his Dayton organ. He warned the white labourers 
that we abolitionists, having brought on the war, were now 
trying to bring a horde of negroes into Ohio to take the bread 
out of their mouths. Of myself personally he wrote : 

It seems to us that about three months in Fort McHenry, in a 
straight uniform, with frequent introductions to the accommodating 
institution called the town pump, and without the benefit of the writ 
of habeas corpus, would have a tendency to improve the gentleman 
mentally, and, for a while at least, rid the community of a nuisance. 

A few months after this criticism appeared, the honest fanatic 
who wrote it was himself in prison, while my father s slaves were 
being colonised in his neighbourhood without exciting any 
opposition among the white labourers. 

These were the only hostile incidents I can remember. I 
visited every important town in Ohio and some of the villages, 
and my lecture on the crisis of the nation was well reported in 
the local papers. I made the acquaintance of many influential 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 301 

people, and was able to report to my friends in Congress that the 
majority of people in Ohio were in favour of immediate and 
universal emancipation as a war measure. 

It was a sad trial to be so much absent from my wife and 
child, but she was as enthusiastic for the cause as myself, and 
was surrounded by relatives and friends. Every Sunday morning 
I managed to be in my pulpit, and every moment when I was 
not lecturing or preaching was devoted to the preparation of my 
book on the absorbing subject. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

" The Rejected Stone " The President General Fremont Letter from 
W. H. Channing Lecture in Washington Talk with President 
Lincoln Emerson J. R. Lowell Seward Senator Sumner 
An Arraignment of War Wendell Phillips Mobbed in Cincinnati 
Unitarian Conference Leaving Cincinnati Our Old Home in 
Virginia Carrying our Slaves to Ohio Troubles in Baltimore 
Laura Bridgman A Poem by Julia Ward Howe. 

AT that time of agony I received information from Washington 
that the Republic of Haiti had sent a messenger to Washington 
to request permission to send there an ambassador, and that 
the Secretary of State, after some evasion, had at last answered, 
" The fact is, Washington cannot receive a black Minister." 

Then there arose before me as if in letters of flame : 

The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the 
corner. 

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken ; but on 
whomsoever it shall fall it will grind him to powder. 

Then I set myself to write the little book entitled, " The 
Rejected Stone : or Insurrection vs. Resurrection in America. 
By a Native of Virginia." 

From this work, which had a large circulation, but is now 
naturally forgotten, I quote a few paragraphs : 

It is the inestimable gain of our present condition, that we have 
come to perceive a weak point in our organic law a stone left out, 
that a fundamental one. . . . 

That stone is, essentially, Justice. 

The form in which it stands for us is The African Slave. 

The ethnologic African is nothing to us here, nor his place in the 
scale, nor yet his capacity ; our fact lies in this, that he is inevitably 
the Third Party in any contract that can be made between the North 
and the South. He must be presently recognised as a party to the 
contract, who has already demonstrated his power to tear it in pieces. 



\ 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 303 

We have already had our experience, and if we do not profit by it, 
tis our own loss. Men who leap from precipices do not imperil the 
law of gravitation. Obey the truth, and it comes a life-giving sun 
beam out of heaven ; disobey, and it comes all the same, but now a 
deadly sun-stroke. 

Ages of wrong have, like cold, hard glaciers, graven on this lowly 
stone the sacred signs of the laws that cannot be broken ; now he 
stands in our midst the touchstone of every virtue. 

There is a print of nails in his hands, and a hollow wound in his 
side ; and though as a sheep before his shearers he is dumb, a voice 
comes from behind him, saying, " What for this least one of my brothers 
you do or do not, you do or do not unto me." 

Although the Boston house (Walker, Wise & Co.) brought 
out a seemingly militant book in blood-red covers, its final 
chapter, " The Great Method of Peace," declared War " always 
wrong," and that it is because " the victories of Peace require 
so much more courage than those of War that they are rarely 
won." We have the courage to slay and be slain, but not enough 
to touch slavery. " Slavery alone renders the present attitude 
of the South possible. It is only because a slave can be left at 
home to till the soil that the white man is able to bear arms in 
the army. Should it be once announced that every slave was 
in the eye of the country a free man, each Southerner would 
have to hurry home to be his own home-guard and his own home- 
provisioner. Such a measure would disband the Southern forces, 
and pin every rebel to his home." 

The response to my book was astonishing. It was reviewed 
by the whole Press, and in every case with earnestness. The 
protests were comparatively few. I cannot remember whether 
any stratagem was intended in withholding my name, but if so 
it was ineffectual ; the name of the " Virginian " was shouted on 
all sides. I received sympathetic letters from eminent men and 
women ; Sumner wrote that he had sent the book to the Presi 
dent, who told him he was reading it with interest. 

It was, I believe, to the President himself that the book 
owed much of its success. It appeared early in October, 1861, 
just after the President had cancelled the proclamation of General 
Fremont in Missouri declaring that the property of those found 
in arms against the United States should be confiscated, " and 



3 o 4 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

their slaves, if any they have, are hereby declared freemen." 
This proclamation from the general who had been the first Re 
publican candidate for the Presidency was issued August 30, 
and sent a thrill of joy throughout the North. The President 
believed it contrary to an Act of Congress of August 6, which 
warranted only confiscation, but not a determination of the future 
condition of the property seized. General Fremont contended 
that if the slaves were confiscated they must either be free or 
the United States must enslave them. In their correspondence, 
which was private, Fremont refused to modify his proclamation, 
as requested, and the burden was thrown on the President. 

The effect of Fremont s proclamation in the South-West was 
instantaneous, and justified all that I had predicted as the 
result of such a declaration by the President. That proclamation 
of freedom was echoed from plantation to plantation all along 
the Mississippi, Tennessee, and Red rivers, insomuch that the 
panic of the sham loyalists was felt at the Capitol, and the first 
straight blow at our dragon revoked. But even this was not 
enough ; Fremont was in himself a proclamation of liberation, 
and on October 24 he was removed. 

This was a staggering blow. A vast meeting of indignation, 
presided over by Judge Stallo, was held in Turner Hall, Cincinnati, 
which declared that " the cowardly and unworthy means by 
which the government effected the removal of Fremont justifies 
the people in the worst fears of the designs and qualifications of 
the administration." My speech at this meeting brought from 
the New York Herald (October 28) a demand for my suppression 
by the government as a " reverend traitor." The passage in 
which the Herald found treason was : 

The policy of the administration will be swept away, or else the 
administration itself, just so soon as the real truth is apprehended 
in all its full powers, that it is only the interest of a pitiful 350,000 
of our people the number of slave-holders who, after keeping us 
in hot water for eighty-five years, now precipitate us into civil war ; 
and that it is only because of the servility which fears to touch the 
impudent claim of that handful to scourge and own men and women 
which makes civil war possible. A decree that this government 
ignores the relation of slavery ends the war. There is from that 
moment no army in the South, but a home-guard. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 305 

A company of gentlemen in Boston wished to distribute 
" The Rejected Stone " among the soldiers, and I gladly relin 
quished my royalty for that large edition. Shortly after, when 
I was at Worcester, Mass., a lady came up after my lecture 
and showed me a copy of the soldier s edition with its cloth 
cover torn across ; she had sent it to her son, and it proved a 
breastplate against a bullet that would have killed him. 

My old church edifice in Washington, used as a storehouse 
of ammunition at the outbreak of war, became a hospital after 
the Bull Run disaster. The congregation was by this time 
entirely converted to anti-slavery opinions, and would have 
welcomed me back again. But I would have brought them 
into trouble again by denouncing the administration and 
its slave-guarding generals. So they called my friend W. H. 
Channing, who united with his hatred of slavery a faith in military 
methods which I had not. 

I received a letter from Channing, dated at Washington, 
January 13, 1862, in which he said : 

I shall depend upon your preaching for me whenever you come. 
It will be an excellent opportunity to reknit the old friendly ties 
between you and the congregation, and to re-establish relationship 
with your many acquaintances in Washington. . . . Thus far the 
prospect is good, and continually improving, of reorganising a large 
and strong society here. The season is at length ripe for such a 
movement. And unless the nation is broken up which Providence 
forbid in mercy next summer s solstice will shine down upon a 
healthy growth of the Tree of Life, well rooted and crowned with 
swelling fruit. But all must depend on the issue of the war for Free 
dom. And what is that issue to be ? I scarcely dare, any longer, 
to conjecture. This mysterious nightmare, which chokes the breath 
and palsies the limbs of the Republic, grows more horribly oppressive 
to me each hour. Of course, we all keep repeating to ourselves and 
to one another : " Wait yet a little longer. When the Cairo expedition 
opens the Mississippi, and Buell advances, and Burnside lands on 
the Rappahannock, etc. etc., then we shall see what we shall see." 
And then each explains the necessity for long and thorough prepara 
tion for so vast a campaign in arms, munitions, drilled men, etc. etc. 
Yes ! all very plausible. But is that the truth, the whole truth, 
and nothing but the truth ? Alas, no ! " What must we do with 
the Border States and with the Emancipated Slaves ? " that question 



306 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

it is that " gives us pause " and sicklies our thought, and turns awry 
heroic patriotism. You have struck the white in your " Rejected 
Stone." And one asks with awe whether it is not already too late 
to save the " United States " ? . . . The Secretary of State is sagacious 
but he is over-sanguine and over-subtle. I agree with the large 
and increasing body of statesmen who believe that a policy of Eman 
cipation and speedy military and naval successes will alone win 
peace abroad and restoration of the republic at home. " A Free 
Union " or " Disintegration " is the only alternative. But it is 
Atheism not to hope. So I close with friendly regards to all in Cin 
cinnati. Yours in good hope. 

Having to visit Washington in January, 1862, I had the 
happiness of finding myself once more in cordial relations with 
my old friends. The anti-slavery feeling in Congress, in the 
absence of Southern members, and in the city, had grown strong 
enough to institute a course of lectures by prominent men from 
all parts of the country on the national crisis. The lectures were 
given in the theatre of the Smithsonian Institution. My own 
lecture was given on January 17, and was attended by Secretary 
Chase and other leading statesmen. The title of my lecture, 
" The Golden Hour," was derived from an old journal which 
contained this pretended advertisement : " Lost. Yesterday, 
somewhere between sunrise and sunset, a Golden Hour, set with 
sixty diamond minutes." 

The Golden Hour of the nation was that in which for the 
first time in its history the murderous madness of slavery had 
unsealed the constitutional war power to eradicate for ever that 
root of all our evils. 

Senator Sumner suggested that I should call on the President. 
I had misgivings because of my public animadversions in Cin 
cinnati on his removal of Fremont, but Sumner prepared the 
way for a call by Channing and myself, the hour of 8 a.m. being 
fixed by the President. When we arrived at the White House a 
woman with a little child was waiting in the ante-room. She 
now and then wept, but said nothing. The President saw her 
first, and she came out radiant. We conjectured that some 
prisoner was that day released. The President received us 
graciously. Mr. Channing having begun by expressing his belief 
that the opportunity of the nation to rid itself of slavery had 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 30; 

arrived, Mr. Lincoln asked how he thought they might avail 
themselves of it. Channing suggested emancipation with com 
pensation for the slaves. The President said he had for years 
been in favour of that plan. When the President turned to me, I 
asked whether we might not look to him as the coming Deliverer 
of the Nation from its one great evil. What would not that 
man achieve for mankind who should free America from slavery ? 
He said, " Perhaps we may be better able to do something in that 
direction after a while than we are now." I said, "Mr. President, 
do you believe the masses of the American people would hail you 
as their deliverer if, at the end of this war, the Union should be 
surviving and slavery still in it ? " " Yes, if they were to see 
that slavery was on the downhill." I ventured to say, " Our 
fathers compromised with slavery because they thought it on the 
downhill ; hence war to-day." The President said, " I think 
the country grows in this direction daily, and I am not without 
hope that something of the desire of you and your friends may be 
accomplished. Perhaps it may be in the way suggested by a 
thirsty soul in Maine who found he could only get liquor from a 
druggist ; as his robust appearance forbade the plea of sickness, 
he called for soda, and whispered, Couldn t you put a drop of 
the creeter intu it unbeknownst to yourself ? " Turning to me, 
the President said, " In working in the anti-slavery movement 
you may naturally come in contact with a good many people who 
agree with you, and possibly may over-estimate the number in 
the country who hold such views. But the position in which 
I am placed brings me into some knowledge of opinions in all 
parts of the country and of many different kinds of people ; and 
it appears to me that the great masses of this country care com 
paratively little about the negro, and are anxious only for military 
successes." We had, I think, risen to leave, and had thanked 
him for his friendly reception, when he said, " We shall need all 
the anti-slavery feeling in the country, and more ; you can #o 
home and try to bring the people to your views ; and you ma_y 
say anything you like about me, if that will help. Don t spare 
me ! " This was said with a laugh. Then he said very gravely, 
" When the hour comes for dealing with slavery I trust I will be 
willing to do my duty, though it cost my life. And, gentlemen, 
lives will be lost." 



3 o8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

During the conversation Mr. Lincoln recurred several times 
to Channing s suggestion of pecuniary compensation for emanci 
pated slaves, and expressed profound sympathy with the South 
erners who, by no fault of their own. had become socially and 
commercially bound up with the institution. As a Virginian, 
with many relatives and friends in the Confederate ranks, I 
responded warmly to his sentiments toward the Southern people, 
albeit feeling more angry than he seemed to be against the insti 
tution preying on that land like a ghoul. 

I felt some regret that my friend Channing s pet idea about 
compensated emancipation should have occupied so much of 
the conversation. The President seemed to think that we were 
mainly concerned for the negro race, whereas the thing of imme 
diate importance was the liberation of our entire country from 
the horrors of war and its causes. So far as the great trouble of 
the time was concerned, the negroes were suffering less than our 
soldiers and the sorrowful homes from which they had parted. 

I left the White House with a feeling of depression. It was 
plain to me that the Union would be preserved at whatever cost ; 
also that though the President felt that slavery should end, he 
had no notion of any other means of preserving the Union except 
military force. The idea that peace could be secured by pro 
claiming freedom seemed to him, I think, a mere religious faith. 
I had no opportunity of repeating the arguments of my lecture, 
The Golden Hour," and determined to recast it with especial 
reference to our conversation and publish it. 

Having to lecture before the Emancipation League in Boston, 
I went on to that city. It was my first visit to Boston since 
the appearance of " The Rejected Stone," and the literary men 
had prepared for me a great honour. This was a grand dinner 
at the Parker House. About thirty were present, among them 
Emerson, Holmes, Lowell, Whipple, and a number of Harvard 
professors, James T. Fields being at the head of the table. There 
were no speeches except that which I was called on to make, and 
which was a brief statement of my interviews with the 
President, and leading men in Washington. I did not 
go into the details of my scheme as prepared for the lecture 
before the Emancipation League ; but knowing that Emerson 
was about to give in Boston a lecture on "American Civilisa- 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 309 

tion," also that he was to lecture at the Smithsonian Institution 
on January 31, I submitted to him privately the substance of 
my new lecture. 

He came to my room in the Parker House and we went over 
carefully every point. 

One paragraph read to him was the following : 

The naturalist Thoreau used to amuse us much by thrusting his 
hand into the Concord River, and drawing out at will a fine fish, 
which would lie quietly in his hand ; when we thrust in ours, the 
fish would scamper out of reach. It seemed like a miracle, until 
he explained to us that his power to take up the fish depended upon 
his knowledge of the colour and location of the fish s eggs. The 
bream will protect its spawn ; and when Thoreau placed his hand 
underneath that, the fish, in order to protect it, would swim imme 
diately over it, and the fingers had only to close for it to be caught. 
Slavery is the spawn out of which the armed forces of treason and 
rebellion in the South have been hatched ; and by an inviolable 
instinct they will rush, at any cost, to protect slavery. You have 
only to take slavery in your grasp, then close your fingers around 
the rebellion. 

I went on to point out that slavery was the commissariat of 
the Southern army ; it was the slave s toil on the farm that 
supplied the soldier s ration ; the negro pointed the soldier at us 
as the soldier pointed his gun at us. 

I begged Emerson to mention anything not clear or not 
conclusive in my statement, for it was one that had not been 
fully set before the country, and if he thought it sound I should 
print it. But if he found it sound I wished to submit to him, 
with all deference, whether he ought not to give expression to 
it in his approaching lecture. Emerson was great enough to 
recognise that this demand was made in all humility, and that 
events had made me a messenger from the race and realm whose 
small voice was drowned by the drum. He thought my argu 
ment sound. " It is forcibly put, but I fear its morality will be 
fatal to it." 

I should have been better satisfied if Emerson had brought 
out the scheme without any reference to me, for it might have 
had more weight as his independent conclusion. He was, how 
ever, too scrupulous for that. His admirable statement appeared 



310 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

in the Atlantic Monthly, April, 1862, with a footnote indicating 
the addition made after our interview. It was printed between 
an article by myself, " Then and Now in the Old Dominion," 
and one by Lowell. 

Lowell was printing a series of papers in the style of his 
" Biglow Papers," but which showed a sad decline in the genius 
that wrote that wonderful work. He now evoked again the 
" Rev. Homer Wilbur," who compares those wishing to declare 
slavery at an end, so far as our government was concerned, to 
philotadpoles, who, impatient at the slow growth by which nature 
leads polliwog to frog, insist on cutting off the polliwog s tail. 
After this Homer says, " I would do nothing hastily or vindict 
ively, nor presume to jog the elbow of Providence. No desperate 
measures for me till we are sure that all others are hopeless 
fleeter e si nequeo Super os, Acheronta movebo" 

It must have been sufficiently painful to Lowell to find that 
he had described Emerson by implication as a philotadpole, but 
it was more than painful to his anti-slavery friends to find him 
limping at such a momentous emergency. According to Emer 
son s article printed beside Lowell s, the latter s Latin quotation 
should have been " flectere si nequeo Acheronta, Superos movebo" 
We were already moving Hell ; we had for a year been engaged 
in butchery and in protecting the Satanic cause of the butchery. 
That Lowell could regard all this as appealing to the gods, and 
to release millions from fetters as a " desperate measure," an 
appeal to " Hell," indicated the almost hopeless condition of 
the public mind. If such a man as Lowell could write in this 
way, what could be expected of Lincoln ? When my second little 
book, " The Golden Hour," was presently published, I was com 
pelled to devote two pages to those fallacies (under the title 
"Homer Nodding"), and headed a chapter with a sentence 
from the essay of Emerson, " Hitch your wagon to a star ! " 
Alluding to an invention of the time for utilising the tides as a 
motor, he said, " Hitch your wagon to a star," and the sentence 
became a proverb. 

The revolution against slavery was strong enough to carry 
our " Sage of Concord " to Washington, where our rulers were 
hitching the Union to a flag star, especially to Kentucky. Several 
Cabinet ministers attended his lecture (January 31, 1862), but 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 311 

it was preaching to Merlins bound in prisons of air by their own 
irreversible spell. 

Emerson told me that while in Washington he was received 
at the White House. Mr. Lincoln extended his hand cordially 
and said : " Mr. Emerson, I remember having heard you give a 
lecture in the West, in which you remarked that every Ken- 
tuckian has an air about him which seems to say, Here I am ; 
if you don t like me, so much the worse for you ! The re 
mark, said Emerson, was witty and friendly, and the brief call 
was pleasant no controversial points being discussed. Emerson 
also called by invitation on the Secretary of State. He was not, 
however, favourably impressed by Seward. The conversation 
began pleasantly, but someone present vexed Seward. " His 
anger," said Emerson, " had a curious effect on his face ; his 
nose appeared twisted and almost corvine." 

While I was in Washington (January, 1862), information given 
me by Senator Sumner increased my distrust of Seward. In the 
summer of 1861 Sumner had received from England advices 
that vSecretary Seward was pursuing a singular course towards 
the British government and its representative at Washington. 
At the same time Senator Sumner received evidences and assur 
ances of amity on the part of the British Government. Sumner, 
then in Boston, sped to Washington and immediately called on 
the President, whom he found gloomy because Seward believed 
a collision with England inevitable. Sumner showed the President 
his advices proving it a false alarm, and the President, greatly 
relieved, begged him to hasten to Seward, who, he said, " will be 
profoundly relieved." Before going to Sew r ard Sumner called 
upon Lieutenant-General Scott, and on several members of the 
Cabinet, finding all in a panic about England, of which neither 
could give any explanation except the declaration of Seward, 
that they were verging upon a war with England. Senator Sumner 
then visited Sew r ard, who told him of the imminence of war with 
England. Senator Sumner asked the evidence ; the secretary 
gave none, but became very animated in maintaining the imminent 
danger. Senator Sumner then showed the advices he had re 
ceived, and said, " In the name of the merchants of America and 
of England, I protest against this course." Seward flew into a 
rage, swore at all Europe, said he was not afraid of them and 



312 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

would show it. The senator then left with this warning : " The 
issues of peace and war between England and America do not rest 
with you, and henceforth every statement put forth from Washington 
concerning European powers will be carefully watched." 

The belief of Sumner was that certain Unionists of the border 
slaveholding States had convinced Seward that if a war with 
England should be sprung upon the country the Confederates 
would make common cause with the United States, not from 
friendliness, but as an honourable means of receding from compli 
cations not contemplated by those who inaugurated the Rebellion.* 

I wrote down notes of the interview with Seward in Sumner s 
presence, and was authorised to report the facts without using 
his name, and did so in the Cincinnati Gazette. 

On returning to Cincinnati, February, 1862, I found the 
city demoralised by the war. Hospitals were filled with wounded 
men, and ladies trained in refined and cultured homes were now 
nurses familiarised with wounds and agonies. The streets were 
often filled with soldiers, whose brutality added a feature to 
the horrible face of War. The main burden of my new book, 
" The Golden Hour," was against War : 

The sword has two edges ; one is turned toward the user, and 
never fails to give him a wound for each inflicted on his antagonist. 

What does the settlement of this conquest by mere military force 
imply to the Free States ? They say that our army is not thorough 
in its morale ; which means, that the young man who was graduated 
last year is yet too full of culture and civilisation to butcher his fellow 
beings after the approved Texan style. He has not forgotten that his 
mother and pastor taught him to overcome evil with good. The 
gentleman is still to a melancholy extent predominant in him, the 
horse and alligator sadly deficient. 

This moralisation of the soldier is the demoralisation of the man. 
War is the apotheosis of brutality. Looking into the past, we see 
it as a climax of horrors when a harlot is borne through the streets 
of Paris proclaimed the Goddess of Reason ; but to-day, should the 
war end, the masses would seize the man whose hand reeked most 

* Possibly Seward got his idea from a speech of Wendell Phillips, 
January 20, 1861, in which he said, " Let a British fleet with admirals of 
the blue and red cover our Atlantic coast, and in ten days Massachusetts 
and Carolina will stand shoulder to shoulder." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 313 

with human blood, and bear him on their shoulders to the White 
House. 

Should we continue this war long enough, we shall become the 
Vandals and Hessians the South says we are. 

Every great achievement of civilisation is in the way of war, and 
must be abridged. Konig of Germany has given it as his opinion 
that distinguished generalship is inconsistent with the existence of the 
telegraph. In our war both sides are cutting down all telegraph 
lines which they cannot hold under military censorship. 

The freedom of the press has been proved impossible in time of war. 

The trial by jury the coat of mail which Character has worn 
for ages is torn away. 

The habeas corpus writ " the high- water mark of English liberty " 
is of arbitrary application. 

A short time ago we were all uttering our horror of the prize- 
ring, with its brutalities. Now George Wilkes announces that our 
frowning down the P. R. has crippled our military energies as a nation, 
and that it must be restored. Logic seconds his motion. 

Here is Christianity itself, the civilisation of religion : for its more 
genial teaching the world gave up the gods of battles Jah and Jove 
with their thunderbolts, Mars with his spear, Odin with his sword. 
But war bids it recede : " You have heard that it hath been said, 
Thou shalt love thy enemy, but I, War, say unto thee, Kill thine 
enemy. " 

Thus one by one these crown- jewels of our humanity must be 
dimmed or exchanged for paste. 

War stands before us to-day a fatal despot, knowing no law but 
the passion of the moment, prostrating the century before the hour ; 
takes the pen and plough from our hand, and gives us a sword ; melts 
types into bullets ; takes away the golden rule, and re-establishes the 
law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 

I was informed by Surrmer that the President would give 
me a foreign consulate if I desired it, which I did not. At one 
time, believing the war one of emancipation, I had thought of 
serving in Virginia as a chaplain, and mentioned this to General 
Schenck ; but when his offer came, I was filled with horror at 
the thought of assisting a military invasion of people not for their 
rescue and that of their slaves, nor for rescue of the nation from 
the demon of discord and desolation. 

On March 6, 1862, the President made his first move towards 
abolition a proposal to Congress to offer co-operation by pecu- 



314 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

niary aid to any State that should " adopt gradual abolition of 
slavery." Congress adopted this without reminding the President 
that only the war power authorised this, and that as a measure 
for repressing the rebellion it had no relevancy. Gradual emanci 
pation was at most like firing off a gun a little at a time. But 
that decree, really for prolongation of war, shocked the border 
States. They were enraged by seeing Wendell Phillips lecturing 
in Washington, receiving attentions in the Capitol, and conversing 
with Lincoln. Phillips went from Washington to Cincinnati, 
where, in attempting to lecture in Pike s Opera House, he was 
furiously mobbed. I was in Boston, but arrived soon at Cin 
cinnati. It was doubtful whether the mob was Kentuckian or 
Ohioan. A large jagged stone was hurled, grazing Phillips s 
head, then smaller stones and eggs, some of which hit him. Some 
one turned off the light, and Phillips, with some members of my 
society in boxes near him, was conducted in the darkness under 
the stage to an exit on a back street. Phillips insisted on filling 
his engagement to speak from my pulpit on Sunday, and wrote 
to me that his visit was particularly pleasant. The assault 
excited much indignation ; the orator was entertained by eminent 
citizens ; and that was, I believe, the last literal stoning of an 
abolitionist. 

The Western Unitarian Conference met in May, 1862, at 
Detroit, and I went there for the purpose of offering the following 
resolution : " That in this conflict the watchword of our nation 
and our church and our government should be, Mercy to the 
South ; death to slavery ! " The resolution, unanimously adopted, 
was supported with enthusiasm, Robert Collyer s speech being 
especially powerful. 

On my return to Cincinnati, I found letters indicating the 
purpose of prominent men in Boston to start in that city a 
journal to advocate immediate emancipation. I was asked 
whether I would edit such a paper, and after much consideration 
my wife and I concluded on acceptance. 

My wife was giving to the hospitals all the time she could 
spare from our two children.* The strain on her was severe. 

* Eustace in his third and Emerson in his first year. After the latter s 
birth, we received the following letter, dated at Concord, October 6, 
1861 : 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 315 

I also was beginning to drag my harness. I did not, however, 
resign my pulpit, but asked for a six months absence. On 
June 29, 1662, I gave my parting discourse. 

Before leaving for the East we went to pass some weeks 
with our intimate friends, Mr. and Mrs. Oriel Eaton, at their 
summer cottage, Yellow Springs. I found there enough repose 
even to indulge myself in an occasional game of chess, Dr. Philip 
Meredith, president of the Chess Club, being within a mile of us. 
One day, however, when we were in the middle of a game, I was 
sent for in haste by my wife.* A note had arrived from my 
mother saying that two of my father s slaves had reached Wash 
ington, but most of them were wandering helplessly in Stafford 
within the lines of the Northern army. I started the same 
evening, and after a wearisome journey of nearly three days on 
irregular trains crowded with soldiers reached Washington. After 
some searching I found those I was looking for Dunmore Gwynn 
and his wife. They had set up a small candy-shop in George 
town, taken in washing, and saved sixty dollars. 

It had been long since tidings concerning my relatives in 

MY DEAR SIR AND MY DEAR LADY, I have your note, and give you 
joy of the happy event you announce to me in the birth of your son. 
Who is rich or happy but the parent of a son ? Life is all preface until 
we have children : then it is deep and solid. You would think me a child 
again if I should tell you how much joy I have owed, and daily owe, to 
my children ; and you have already known the early chapters of this 
experience in your own house. My best thanks are due to you both 
for the great goodwill you show me in thinking of my name for the boy. 
If there is room for choice still, I hesitate a good deal at allowing a rusty 
old name, beaten with Heaven knows how much time and fate, to be 
flung hazardously on this new adventurer in his snow-white robes. I 
have never encountered such a risk out of my own house, and for the 
boy s sake, if there be time, must dissuade. But I shall watch the career 
of this young American with special interest, born as he is under stars 
and omens so extraordinary, and opening the gates of a new and fairer 
age. With all hopes and all thanks, and with affectionate sympathies 
from my wife, Yours ever, R. W. EMERSON. 

(My wife declares that name or no name her spoon shall go.) 
* After the lapse of fourteen years I revisited Cincinnati, and after 
my lecture in the Opera House Dr. Meredith challenged me to finish the 
game which had been interrupted at Yellow Springs. He had taken 
down the situation, and now in the presence of an invited company the 
game was won by me, and published in the papers next day. 



316 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Virginia had reached me. A small parcel containing an old 
china cup and saucer and a silver spoon had been sent me from 
Washington at the request of a Union soldier who had saved them 
from the wreck of things in Conway House, Falmouth. These 
relics are connected with a curious incident. When the Union 
army, under General McDowell, entered Falmouth they found 
the village deserted by the whites. My father was in Freder- 
icksburg, and my two brothers far away in the Confederate 
ranks. The house was left empty and locked up, the house 
servants remaining in their abode in the back yard. Yet, as the 
Union soldiers were filing past, a shot was fired from either a 
window of Conway House or a corner of its yard, and a soldier 
wounded. It was never known who fired the shot ; our negroes 
assured me that the house was locked and watched. The Union 
soldiers, alarmed and enraged, battered down the doors, and, 
finding no one, began vengeance on the furniture. It happened, 
however, that in my mother s bedroom was hung a portrait of 
myself, and this caught the eye of a youth who had known me 
in Washington. He cried to his furious comrades to stop. The 
servants were called in, and were much relieved when they 
found it was to speak of my portrait. Old Eliza cried, 
"It s Mars Monc the preacher, as good abolitionist as any 
of you ! " 

It was some consolation to me that, though long regarded as 
the black sheep of the family, my portrait saved Conway House 
from destruction, for that was contemplated. The house was of 
brick, and the largest in Falmouth ; it was made a hospital, and 
the seriously wounded soldier was its first inmate. My father 
heard of the incident with distress, and under a flag of truce 
crossed the Rappahannock to express to the Federal commander 
his horror at the deed and give proof that all the members of 
his family were distant from the spot. He was believed, and 
granted his request to visit the wounded soldier. With a good 
deal of emotion he approached the young man, expressed his 
horror of the crime, and his distress at seeing him suffering. 
He exclaimed, said my father in telling me the story, " Oh, I 
glory in it ! " My father would have been glad to make some 
kind of practical redress, but it was impossible, and he left his 
house with feelings of admiration for the sufferer. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 317 

It was in Conway House hospital that Walt Whitman, for a 
time, nursed the suffering soldiers. 

The negroes who were included in the lines of the Union 
armies by their advance had learned that they were not so made 
free ; but they had given our government undeserved credit by 
their belief that all of them who did some service to our soldiers, 
however little blacking boots, washing clothes, etc. would be 
free. None of our negroes had followed Dunmore Gwynn and 
his wife to Georgetown. I therefore resolved to go to Falmouth, 
if possible, and bring them all away. I consulted my old friend 
Secretary Chase, and formed a plan of settling our negroes at 
Yellow Springs, where I had friends. 

Secretary Chase took me to see Secretary of War Stanton. I 
found him hard and narrow-minded. He said they did not want 
any more negroes in the District ; and when I said that I would 
merely take them through the District, he said that the military 
situation in Stafford was too critical for him to give me the permit. 
I then visited President Lincoln and stated the entire case. He 
sympathised with my purpose, and recognised that I had a right 
to look after my father s slaves. He warned me, however, of the 
personal danger in such a journey. I told him that I had con 
sidered that matter, and would be cautious ; I also promised to 
be prudent in not connecting him or the administration with the 
affair. I simply needed practical suggestions as to the best means 
of doing a thing which, for the rest, would really relieve his 
officers in Virginia and ultimately the District from the care of 
fifty or sixty coloured people. The President advised me to call 
on General Wadsworth. I think he must have communicated 
with this general, for next day when I appealed to Wadsworth 
in company with W. H. Channing, who had determined to accom 
pany me to Falmouth, he did not hesitate to give us the orders. 

Headquarters Military District of Washington, 

Washington, D. C. 

The Rev d. Mr. Conway will be allowed to go to Falmouth and 
return on Government Boat and R. R. train. 

W. J. WADSWORTH, 

Brig. Gen l. 



318 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

We were both staying at the house of our friends Mrs. Walter 
Johnson and her sister Miss Donaldson, always the anti-slavery 
saints of the Unitarian Society. W T e had arranged to start at 
daybreak the next day. But during the evening I began to feel 
that my plans were too immature. If, as was probable, our 
negroes were in separate localities and far away from Falmouth, 
how could they be reached and collected how could they be 
brought up to Washington ? General Wadsworth s permit said 
nothing about negroes. I had provided myself with money, but 
might need the aid of Stafford negroes. But it had been many 
years since I had known the negroes there, and they might 
suspect any white man searching for coloured people. 

After I had gone to bed I was seized with an impulse to consult 
an old mulatto whom I had known in boyhood, and who now 
resided in the farthest suburb of Georgetown. He had helped 
many a slave to escape, and probably knew the principal negroes 
between Georgetown and Falmouth. He would be able to give 
me their names and some advice about my expedition. But 
the distance was five miles, and I was baffled by a terrible storm. 
I waited long for it to abate, but it only seemed to increase. I 
determined, however, to go, and, without disturbing anyone, 
crept out into the darkness at about eleven o clock. The thunder 
and lightning were fierce, the rain fell in torrents, the wind 
rendered an umbrella useless, the streets were flooded. As I 
approached Georgetown bridge the lights were few, but I knew 
every foot of the road leading to my old Methodist circuit. When 
I had got through Georgetown to the line of negro cabins, a new 
difficulty confronted me ; they were all dark it was after mid 
night and I could not identify the house sought. At length, how 
ever, I saw a glimmer of light in one little window, and to that I 
went. As I approached the door, I heard negro voices within sing 
ing a hymn. When I knocked, the voices ceased ; there was per 
fect silence. On another knock a voice demanded, " Who is that ? " 
I answered, " A friend ! Moncure Conway." There was a wild 
shout, the door flew open, and there I found all my father s negroes.* 

* The house was that of Collin Williams, the same fugitive whom I 
had tried to find in Boston nine years before (see chapter xi.) at the re 
quest of his wife, who had now joined him in Georgetown. He, in turn, 
had hunted up my address and forwarded my mother s letter. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 319 

They had just arrived, most of them in the storm. Through 
a weary way of near sixty miles they had been dragging them 
selves and their little ones, their coverlets and boxes. They 
were crammed into the two ground rooms, the children sleeping 
wherever they could find a place for their weary heads, and 
several mothers had babes at their breast. The latest comers 
were wet. The elements had pursued them like blood-hounds ; 
they were tossed about by destiny, but still able to raise their 
song in the night. 

Many years had parted me from them, but when I entered, 
all knew me on the instant. Old Maria, who had nursed me when 
I was a child, sprang forward and folded me in her arms as if I 
were still an infant. They pressed around me with their children, 
and clung to me as to a lifeboat in their storm. Far into the night 
we sat together ; and they listened with glistening eyes as I told 
them of the region to which I meant to take them, where never 

should they 

feel oppression, 
Never hear of war again. 

Thus I was saved the danger and expense of going down into 
Stafford. But for all the gladness of this night, my troubles 
had scarcely begun. It was yet a question whether negroes situ 
ated like these were free to go North ; for every coloured person 
taken over them the railroads exacted a bond of $3,000, with 
security, for fear they might be sued by an owner for taking off 
his property. And there was still a potential pro-slavery and 
Confederate mob in Baltimore through which at the time a 
journey to Ohio must be made. In Baltimore passengers going 
west were taken in omnibuses through many streets to another 
station. General Wadsworth, military governor of the district, 
was ready to see me safely on the road to Baltimore, but could 
not guarantee me transit through that city. Senator Sumner 
got together several congressmen to consult on the matter, and 
one of them Giddings, I think said the only safe way was for 
me to take a cowhide and drive the negroes through the Balti 
more streets ! But though such a ruse might, as he humorously 
said, bring all white Baltimore to my feet, it was suggested that 
it might have the reverse effect on the excited negroes there. 
Though my father was a Confederate, there was as yet no legal 



320 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

process by which the title of his slaves to freedom could be per 
fected. I was thus, in the eye of the law, a slaveholder ! Al 
though I could not obtain authority to convey these negroes to 
Ohio, Secretary Chase obtained a letter to General Wool, com 
mander at Fort McHenry, which would authorise him to grant 
me protection if necessary in taking " my father s slaves " 
through Baltimore. This did not brighten the prospect much. 
General Wool was a good but infirm old man, not likely to interest 
himself in my affair, and the fort was a long distance from the 
centre of Baltimore, through which we had to pass. 

At last we started out from Washington, a concourse of col 
oured people attending us. The terrors did not fail us when we 
were set down in the streets of Baltimore with a small world of 
baggage and far from the other station. There were no arrange 
ments to take any but white people from station to station. The 
sensation we caused was immediate ; hundreds of negroes of all 
ages surrounded us, and became so mixed up with mine, especi 
ally the children, that it was hard to distinguish them. For a 
few moments there was danger from these negroes. There had 
been rumours of Washington slaveholders hurrying their slaves 
into Maryland to evade the new Act of Emancipation in the 
District ; and my Southern physique being unmistakable, the 
dusky folk muttered and hissed around me and impeded my 
efforts. But some signs passed from my " contrabands " which 
suddenly transformed the angry crowd into friends ; they were 
presently conveying us with our baggage in wagons, making a 
procession across the city. But the procession was too triumphal. 
It excited attention in every street, and when we reached the 
station we had an ugly crowd of whites to confront. 

Alas ! there was no westward train for three mortal hours ! 
I took the negroes into the regular waiting-room, so completely 
had I forgotten the customs of slave States. Of course, the 
railroad officials drove us angrily out. I asked for some room ; 
they had " no room for niggers." I offered to pay for one, but 
could not get it. I asked to be permitted to take them into a 
car, but was told that the gate would not be unlocked for two 
hours. Meanwhile we were in the street, and the crowd of whites 
was increasing every moment ; and they saw, by the delight of 
the blacks, that it was an abolition movement. Uglier and 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 321 

uglier they became, glaring at me, and annoying the negroes 
under my protection until I had to restrain my men from resent 
ment. I implored my people to be patient, and pointed out to 
the police the threatening aspect of affairs ; but these sneeringly 
said it was my own affair, not theirs. Nevertheless, I took a 
bit of paper from my pocket, and I declared it would take the 
negroes through though it should bring the guns of Fort McHenry 
on the city. This imposing utterance had evident effect on 
some in the crowd. Yet they persisted in worrying my negroes, 
and, when I interfered, several called me " a damned abolitionist, 
who had brought on the war." 

At length, much to my relief, the ticket-agent appeared at 
his window. I saw that, like the other officials, he was angry, 
but he was a fine-looking Marylander. He turned into flint as I 
approached ; and when I asked the price of tickets, he said sharply, 
" I can t let those negroes go on this road at any price." I knew 
that he would have to let them go, but knew also that he could 
make things very uncomfortable for us. I silently presented my 
military order to the disagreeable and handsome agent, and he 
began to read it. He had read but two or three words of it 
when he looked up with astonishment, and said, " The paper 
says these are your father s slaves." " They are," I replied. 
" Why, sir, they would bring a good deal of money in Baltimore." 
" Possibly," I replied. Whereupon (moved probably by sup 
posing that I was making a great sacrifice) he said, " By God, 
you shall have every car on this road if you want it ! " Then, 
having sold me the tickets, he gave his ticket-selling to a sub 
ordinate, and went out to secure us a car to ourselves ; and from 
that moment the imprecations around us sank, and our way was 
made smooth. 

It was late in the evening when we started, and we were to 
travel all night. I observed that the negroes would neither talk 
nor sleep. The mothers had put their children to sleep, but 
were themselves holding a silent watch. They were yet in a 
slave State, and every station at which the train paused was a 
possible danger. At last, when the name of a certain wooding-up 
station was called out, I observed that every eye danced, every 
tongue was loosened, and, after some singing, they all dropped 
off to sleep. It was not until next day that I learned that the 



322 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

station which had wrought such a transformation was the dividing 
line between the slave and the free States. How they knew it I 
cannot divine ; it was a small place, but there the shadow of 
slavery ended. Probably Dunmore Gwynn had learned about 
the frontier from Collin Williams in Georgetown. 

My wife and the Eatons at Yellow Springs, daily telegraphed 
my movements, had with some neighbours prepared for the 
reception of the negroes. A large old barn was offered by Mr. 
Grinnell, and an energetic company got into it pallets and furniture 
enough for immediate comfort. The labour of the negroes was 
in demand. Dunmore with his sixty dollars and some little 
assistance was able to set up a home for himself and his large 
family, where they carried on various occupations. Many of our 
negroes had been house servants, and had better manners than 
most of the coloured people in Ohio. The only trouble came 
through their exceeding piety. One man had such a passion 
for preaching and pious meetings that he failed to give satisfac 
tion on the farm where he was employed, because of the inspira 
tion that carried him suddenly away from the field to some prayer- 
meeting. He and his family moved over to Dayton. But I 
shall have to refer to my little colony again. 

Having several engagements to lecture in Massachusetts, 
and consultations about the projected journal to attend, I has 
tened to Boston, having taken to my sister at Easton, Pa., a 
young octoroon to whom she was much attached. 

In Boston I was the guest of Dr. and Mrs. Samuel G. Howe. 
I had enjoyed their hospitality before, and a great enjoyment it 
was. Dr. Howe, one of the most interesting of men, had several 
times taken me to visit the celebrated Laura Bridgman, the deaf, 
dumb, and blind lady whom he had endowed with intelligence. 
The graphic account of Laura and of the miracle wrought by 
Dr. Howe, given by Charles Dickens (" American Notes "), had 
not enabled me to realise the full wonder of what had been achieved. 
Julia Ward Howe, who had gained a high rank among poets by 
her " Passion Flowers," had by her " Battle Hymn of the Re 
public " given lyric expression to the anti-slavery enthusiasm 
that entered into the war. Among the stories I told her was one 
of a negro who had come within the Union line at Port Royal, 
Va., and said to our commander there, Colonel Lee, " Will you 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 323 

please, sir, tell me if I am a free man ? " The commander was 
dumb. Next day Mrs. Howe handed me the following : 

Tell me, master, am I free ? 

From the prison-land I come, 
From a wrecked humanity, 

From the fable of a home, 

From the market where my wife, 

With my baby at her breast, 
Faded from my narrow life, 

Rudely bartered and possest. 

Masters, ye are fighting long, 

Well your trumpet-blast we know : 
Are ye come to right a wrong ? 

Do we call you friend or foe ? 

Will ye keep me, for my faith, 

From the hound that scents my track ? 

From the riotous, drunken breath, 
From the murder at my back ? 

God must come, for whom we pray, 

Knowing His deliverance true ; 
Shall our men be left to say, 

He must work it free of you ? 

Links of an unsighted chain 

Bound the spirit of our braves ; 
Waiting for the nobler strain, 

Silence told him we were slaves. 

The little book of which I have already spoken, " The Golden 
Hour," was published by Ticknor and Fields in August, 1862. 

A club of Republican leaders, formed around one of the 
best of men and called after his name " The Frank Bird Club," 
had arranged at one of their dinners for the new journal. Another 
admirable man was George L. Stearns of Medford. From him 
I received a note of July 31, saying, " I am ready to furnish the 
means for the present publication of a weekly newspaper which 
will fearlessly tell the truth about this war." 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

Residence in Concord Hon. Martin F. Conway Garrison and Phillips 
Editing the Commonwealth Hymn for a New Advent Watch 
Night in the African Church Lecture Tour in New York The 
President s Proclamation Deputation to the President My 
Sermon before the Senate Interview with Lincoln Disheartened 
Leaders OliverWendell Holmes Nathaniel Hawthorne in Concord, 
1862-63. 

WE went at once to reside at Concord, in a house just vacated 
by Rev. Mr. Frost. This house, the first we ever owned, was 
pretty ; it stood in a large garden, well stocked with fruit and 
flowers, at its centre a bower of evergreen. As we were moving 
in, Robert Collyer came to pass a day or two with us. We had 
a cook, but told him that " though we could gladly eat him, 
we couldn t sleep him," unless he was content with a pallet. To 
this he did not object, and was soon helping to gather in the 
apples and wheeling our little Emerson on the top of them, 
helping in every way and turning work into merriment. But 
after his one night on the floor, my wife remarked a smile of 
satisfaction on Collyer s face when another bedstead arrived. 

We were happy in Concord. I had made the acquaintance 
of most people in it during my college days, and my wife was 
received cordially. Some of them she already knew ; Mrs. 
Horace Mann she had known at Yellow Springs during her hus 
band s presidency at Antioch College. Emerson had been with 
us several times in Cincinnati, and we had entertained there 
Bronson Alcott. Mrs. Mann, who had long had warm friendship 
for my wife, was living in Concord with her sister, Elizabeth 
Peabody, the other sister being Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Another literary resident was William Ellery Channing, 
nephew of the famous preacher whose name he bore. There 
was something forbidding about the man at any rate when we 
met so our acquaintance was slight. I would have been glad 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 325 

to see more of his wife, and to converse with her about her sister, 
the famous Margaret Fuller Ossoli, whose writings were precious 
to me. He appeared to be a recluse in the village, his most 
intimate friend being Frank Sanborn, who has written his bio 
graphy. 

We were rather disappointed at finding the best people in 
Concord so conservative in religious ideas. Although Emerson 
never attended it himself, he reserved a pew in the Unitarian 
church for his family. Mrs. Ripley, Miss Elizabeth Hoar, and 
the Thoreaus were rationalists. However, the ladies were all 
emancipationists, and highly appreciated my two books, " The 
Rejected Stone " and " The Golden Hour." I several times 
lectured on the crisis in the town hall, and generally carried the 
sympathy of my audience, though Judge Rockwood Hoar, the 
most prominent Republican leader there, never quite forgave me 
for a criticism on his friend Minister Adams in England. 

My new book, " The Golden Hour," did not enjoy the popu 
larity of " The Rejected Stone," for it seemed Utopian to maintain 
that the war was a gigantic catastrophe and mistake, the only 
arm needed by Liberty being Liberty. My book had, however, 
the success of convincing a considerable number of influential 
men. Among these was Horace Greeley, who in the New York 
Tribune wrote a vigorous editorial affirming its " wondrous 
cogency." Among those who responded to it was the Hon. 
Martin F. Conway, representative of Kansas in Congress. Judge 
Conway no relation of mine was a native of Maryland who 
had gone out to Kansas in early youth, and shared the terrible 
trials of its struggles for freedom. On December 12, 1861, he 
had delivered in Congress a speech which I consider the only 
thorough analysis of the slave power ever heard in that body. 
Born in a slave State, he had closely studied the heart of slavery, 
and had learned by experiences in Kansas the fatal necessity it 
imposed on the South to rule or ruin. 

Despite all he had gone through, Judge Conway was still 
young ; his light hair and blond face, beardless, delicate, almost 
feminine, gave me an impression of a youth brought up in some 
dainty environment. There was in his eye an expression of the 
isolated man standing beside his paradox, but his voice was 
calm and sweet, and gentleness his enforcement. He had come 



326 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

on from Washington to urge upon us his theory of the situation. 
I took him at once to Emerson, and to us two Judge Con way 
explained his views. Emerson was attracted by him, and lis 
tened closely. The statement was substantially as follows : 
The theory of the administration is that we are not engaged in 
a war, which could be declared only by Congress, but in sup 
pressing an insurrection, this being the only purpose for which 
the President was authorised by the Constitution to call out 
soldiers. But practically it is a war ; in blockading Southern 
ports, etc., the administration is dealing as if with an alien 
belligerent. Nevertheless the original theory that it was an 
insurrection in certain still existing States survives the fact of 
belligerency sufficiently to cause the administration to protect 
slavery with one hand while fighting its defenders with the 
other. It has thus become virtually a war of slaveholders against 
slaveholders. This is not only morally intolerable as regards 
slavery, but equally as regards the horrors of war, manifestly 
prolonged by the theory that the seceding States still retain all 
their former rights such as the return of their fugitive slaves. 
Even if successful in a military sense, the administration could 
only bring us back a union with slavery in it and the old ele 
ments of discord. Judge Con way declared that it was now 
certain that North and South would be forever bound together 
either with or without slavery. If it is to be a peaceful Union it 
must be by dealing with the seceding States as an alien enemy. 
Had the Confederacy been a foreign power and assailed our flag, 
our government would instantly have struck at the cause of the 
attack slavery. And that is precisely what we have a right 
to do now, to deal with slavery as an alien enemy a separate 
political community. In that case the military struggle might 
cease. The realm of freedom being brought down to the border 
slave States, such slaves as could escape across the line would do 
so, and the rest be conveyed by their owners to the distant South ; 
and as these border States thus became free they would become 
antagonistic to the slave States and reconciled to the free Union. 
Thus the Southern line of the United States would be carried 
down to the next tier of slave States, upon which the same effect 
would be wrought ; and the process thus continued until the 
United States flag would again reach the Gulf. Should the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 327 

present war cease, the new one would immediately begin ; moral 
forces would take the place of the military ; the anti-slavery 
editor and lecturer would appear instead of the dragoon and 
musketeer ; the centre of abolitionism would be transferred 
from Boston to Richmond. This would be genuine victory ; but 
our opportunity for winning it may pass, and it certainly will 
never be gained by the war now waged. 

Emerson had listened with much animation to this quiet 
statement. We would have gathered a public meeting to hear 
the eloquent congressman, but he could not remain. When I 
next met Emerson he said, " That man ought to be either an 
swered or followed." No prospect in that dark hour could have 
been fairer to Emerson than that opened by Judge Conway. 
For myself, I recognised in Judge Con way s position that in 
which we all stood until the nation caught fire from the shells 
bursting on Fort Sumter. Anti-slavery people (even many 
Quakers) fed the conflagration because they saw God in it con 
suming the rottenness of the nation and refining what was 
sound. In that fair dream they had accepted the challenge of 
slavery ; but the dream was followed by this nightmare : the 
first Republican government had agreed to stake the life of 
free America on a duel with slave America. The fate of the 
New World was to be settled by skill with the rifle. It was too 
late for us to recover the freedom of choice which preceded that 
outburst of patriotic rage, which proved to be largely the vulgar 
pluck of the cockpit. I therefore maintained the position advo 
cated in " The Golden Hour," which differed from that of Judge 
Conw r ay only in assuming all the Southern territory occupied by 
the United States as the extended realm of freedom. To each 
of our posts the slaves should be invited, and there should be no 
further fighting unless in defence of such asylums against attack. 

The Commonwealth began with September, 1862. Frank B. 
Sanborn was associated with me in editing it. We were friends 
at Harvard University, and he was the only student there who 
held Emerson in a reverence equal to my own. After graduation 
he had settled at Concord, and we were in constant communica 
tion. We had a vigorous anti-slavery governor of Massachusetts, 
John A. Andrew, who had protested against the use of soldiers 
from his State to return fugitive slaves. The Commonwealth 



328 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

was recognised as a sort of organ of the Commonwealth of Massa 
chusetts in its relation to the national crisis. There was no 
rivalry nor friction between our paper and the Liberator. That 
paper was edited by Mr. Garrison with great vigour, but he recog 
nised clearly the advantage of starting the new journal. Sanborn 
and I were often in consultation with him and Wendell Phillips. 

The Commonwealth paid attention to literature, and several 
young writers made their debuts in our paper. Among these was 
Louisa Alcott, who had gone to nurse soldiers in a hospital at 
Washington. The series of her " Hospital Sketches " showed 
every variety of ability, and excited much attention. Julia 
Ward Howe wrote for us, and her powers as a humourist were 
revealed in a parody of " Excelsior." When General McClellan 
had become chieftain of the reactionary, who were parading him 
in the Northern cities as the coming President, great preparations 
were made for the pageant in Boston ; but during that day the 
rain descended steadily, and nothing was seen but several hundred 
umbrellas passing along Washington Street. Next day the 
Commonwealth printed Mrs. Howe s parody, " Expluvior ! " 

Even after the President s preliminary proclamation of 
September 22 we had enough to do. The long warning had the 
effect of giving the border seceders time to dispose of their slaves 
farther South, and it also gave time for an outcry of their sym 
pathisers that the President meant to excite a massacre of whites 
in the South. This outcry was echoed in England, where some 
excellent men, among them Dr. Martineau, denounced the 
proclamation. This baseless alarm recruited the political corps 
gathering round McClellan. There was danger, too, that the 
President might yield to the increasing pressure brought upon 
him to retreat from the proclamation, in which were clauses 
rendering such retreat possible. As the year 1862 drew toward 
its close, that pressure became severe, and on the other hand we 
of the anti-slavery side did not fail with pen and voice to hold 
the administration to its pledge. 

Between the President s promise of September 22, 1862, and 
the New Year, we were in the exaltation of a new religion, all 
the more potent because indefinable. All the great minds and 
hearts at Boston, Cambridge, and Concord, however aloof from 
our agitation formerly, were now aglow with it even Nathaniel 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 329 

Hawthorne having concluded that the annihilation of slavery 
was essential to a future union between North and South. 
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes warned the South, " There are wars 
against fate that can never be won." 

As Christmas time drew near, great meetings were held, and 
I was continually lecturing. I needed a Christmas hymn for the 
Commonwealth, but in all the range of Advent poems could find 
nothing that contemplated Lincoln s proclamation ; so I had to 
write one myself, and I insert it with all its poverty as some 
indication of the new-born religion that set a new song on our 
tongues. 

Now let the angel-song break forth ! 
For night shall nevermore be night : 

A quenchless star climbs o er the earth, 
A torch lit up at God s own light. 

There where the watching shepherds pressed, 
Where Eastern seers bowed them low, 

From pole to pole, from east to west, 
See the world s tidal pulses flow ! 

I saw the warrior on the plain 

Pause in that light to sheathe his sword : 

I saw the slave look up in pain 
Chains melted in the fires it poured. 

Thou God, who gavest our night this star, 

Whose circling arm exclude th none. 
Gather our treasures from afar 

To the soul s monarch inly born ! 

Kindle Thy blessed sign again, 

For the New World a Christ s new birth, 

When to our cry, Good will to men, 

The heavens shall answer, Peace on earth ! 

A grand jubilee concert in celebration of emancipation was 
arranged for New Year s Day in Boston Music Hall. Theodore 
Parker s " Fraternity " assembled in that hall, and on De 
cember 21 I gave them a discourse on "The Unrecognised Gift of 
God to America," applying to our nation the words of Jesus 
to the woman at the well. 

An engagement to lecture at Rochester, N.Y., on January 2, 
prevented my remaining for the celebration in the Music Hall, 



330 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

where Emerson s fine " Boston Hymn " was to be followed by 
Beethoven s "Fifth Symphony" of which Margaret Fuller 
once wrote, " In it innumerable spirits seem to demand the crisis 
of their existence." Having to leave Boston early on New Year s 
Day for Rochester, I passed its vigil in Boston. On that day I 
dined at Dr. Howe s with Judge Con way our solitary Cassandra 
still warning us that we would never get real emancipation till 
the sword was sheathed and the seceding States regarded as an 
alien country. I told him that I should approve of his theory 
when we became certain that we could not get all the States for 
liberty ; but I thought slavery weaker than he supposed, and on 
its last legs. 

On the eve of New Year s Day, 1863, we made up a little 
party at the Stephensons in Boston to attend Watch Night in 
the African church. Young William Lloyd Garrison and his sister 
Fanny (now Mrs. Villard) were with us. We arrived about 
half -past eleven, and though the church was much crowded, the 
Garrisons were recognised and good places found for us the 
only whites present. In opening the meeting the black preacher 
said, in words whose eloquent shortcomings I cannot reproduce : 
" Brethren and sisters, the President of the United States has 
promised that, if the Confederates do not lay down their arms, 
he will free all their slaves to-morrow. They have not laid 
down their arms. To-morrow will be the day of liberty to the 
oppressed. But we all know that evil powers are around the 
President. While we sit here they are trying to make him break 
his word. But we have come this Watch Night to watch and 
see that he does not break his word. Brethren, the bad influence 
near the President to-night is stronger than Copperheads. The 
old serpent is abroad to-night, with all his emissaries, in great 
power. His wrath is great, because he knows his hour is near. 
He will be in this church this evening. As midnight comes on 
we shall hear his rage. But, brethren and sisters, don t be 
alarmed. Our prayers will prevail. His head will be bruised. 
His back will be broke. He will go raging back to hell, and God 
Almighty s New Year will make the United States a true land 
of freedom." 

The sensation caused by these words was profound. They 
were interrupted by frequent cries of " Glory ! " and there were 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 331 

tears of joy. But the excitement that followed was indescribable. 
A few minutes before midnight the congregation were requested 
to kneel, which we all did, and prayer succeeded prayer with 
increasing fervour and amid shouts of rapture. Presently a 
loud, prolonged hiss was heard. There were cries, " He s here ! 
he s here ! " Then came a volley of hisses ; they proceeded from 
every part of the house hisses so entirely like those of huge 
serpents that the strongest nerves were shaken ; above them rose 
the preacher s prayer, gradually becoming a wild incantation, 
and ecstatic ejaculations became so universal that it was a 
marvel what voices were left to make the hisses. Finally the 
strokes of midnight sounded, and immediately the hisses dimin 
ished and gradually died away as if outside the building. Then 
the New Year of jubilee that was to bring freedom to millions of 
slaves was ushered in by the chorus of all present singing a hymn 
of victory. 

The hymn was the old Methodist " Year of Jubilee," which 
I had so many years heard sung in Virginia by the negroes when 
their night was without any star save that burning in their faith. 

Blow ye the trumpet, blow 

The gladly solemn sound : 
Let all the nations know, 

To earth s remotest bound, 
The year of jubilee is come ; 

Return, ye ransom d sinners, home ! 

We all joined hands, standing up, and Fanny Garrison (who 
was beside me) and I sang with ecstasy, until our voices broke 
with the overpowering emotion. 

The noble face of our old pioneer Garrison had always been 
as a pillar of fire, that no trouble could ever turn to cloud ; and 
this happy spirit was transmitted to his children. Fanny s 
radiant face seemed to bring that of her father on duty else 
where that night into the African church. 

New Year s Day, 1863, was glorious with sunshine, but it 
did not bring us the expected proclamation. At five o clock in 
the afternoon I arrived at Albany. Our enemy Seymour had 
just been inaugurated governor of New York, and the Delavan 
Hotel was full of such people ; but the Hon. Gerrit Smith was 



332 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

moving past them, and my diary says that he " made them all 
look very small and mean." The Unitarian minister, Rev. A. D. 
Mayo, came up to me, but I found him " disgustingly Sewardish 
and behind the time," and went off to supper with Gerrit Smith. 
After a night s journey I reached Rochester at eight next morning, 
and there read the President s disappointing proclamation. Still 
the edict of liberation for more than three millions of slaves was 
enough to add a happy climax to my lecture in the magnificent 
Corinthian Hall, which was crowded. 

From Rochester I went on to Syracuse, where I preached for 
my friend Jamuel J. May and visited the Sedgwicks. These 
always anti-slavery people were festive about the jubilee year, and 
my lecture in the public hall was received with sympathy. Auburn, 
the home of Seward, was not so enthusiastic ; but there was a 
goodly number of excellent Quakers at my lecture among these 
the anti-slavery saint, Mrs. Wright, and her daughter Ella, now 
the wife of William Lloyd Garrison, the brave devotion of both 
to peace and justice amid these latter-day wars often reminding 
me of the faithfulness of their parents. 

From Auburn I travelled to Peterborough, and enjoyed the 
hospitality of Gerrit Smith in his baronial mansion. It was a 
picture to see this handsome old gentleman, honesty and kindness 
stamped on every feature, seated amid his large and beautiful 
family. My lecture was given in his own lecture-hall to a good 
audience, largely his work-people, among them a night w r atchman 
named Putnam ; a sort of laureate to the establishment, who as I 
was leaving next morning gave me a poem on " Liberty," com 
posed at his post during the night. But in the morning I had 
time to write and read to Gerrit Smith an article showing that 
the necessary object of the war was the abolition of slavery, 
some step towards that having at every stage proved itself 
compulsory. 

On my journey home I encountered a good many noisy 
" Copperheads." One old Democrat, seated near me in the car, 
attracted general attention by swearing at me as one of the 
abolitionists who had " got us into this fix," and talked of our 
military defeats. I asked him if he had not heard of the victory. 
" What victory ? Vicksburg ? " " No, at Washington." " No ; 
what was it ? " " Three millions of slaves free ! " The old 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 333 

fellow jumped up and moved away swearing, amid general 
laughter. 

In those dramatic hisses and that song of victory in the 
African Watch Night I had heard the ancient burden of Ezekiel 
against Pharaoh, the great dragon, " I will put a hook in thy 
jaws," and the burden of Isaiah against " Leviathan, that crooked 
serpent." Here were renewed the voices of those African slaves 
now pictured with their chains on the ruined walls of Egypt ; 
and we white visitors who had mingled our tears with those 
humble negroes had gone home feeling that we had witnessed the 
final combat between Jesus and Satan in America. And in the 
proclamation, although partial, a victorious sun appeared about 
to rise upon the New World of free and equal men. But when 
our ecstasy had passed, some of us perceived that while freedom 
had got a paper proclamation, the cannon-ball proclamation had 
gone to slavery. The anti-slavery generals were in the North ; 
the military posts where slaves might become free were under 
military generals or governors notoriously hostile to emancipa 
tion. The three generals who had proclaimed freedom to the 
slaves in their departments Fremont, Phelps, and Hunter 
had all been removed, and to the slaves these removals were pro- 
slavery proclamations which they understood, while this of the 
New Year they could not read even if it were allowed to reach 
them. 

About the middle of January General Benjamin F. Butler, 
just superseded in command by General Banks at New Orleans, 
arrived in Boston. He was a sort of lion, and a grand dinner 
was given him at the Parker House. I find in my diary that 
" he made a fine speech, showing that he has always known the 
justice of the anti-slavery movement and has been a hypocrite 
till now." This old spoilsman, whose cross-eyes could never see 
beyond his paunch, had discovered that his political paunch could 
best be fed by siding with the negroes against their masters in 
New Orleans. But I distrusted him, and also some of tho e who 
surrounded him at the dinner ; so I slipped out just before the 
moment appointed for my speech. George L. Stearns, just from 
Washington, told me that " Banks had been sent to New Orleans 
because it was feared that Butler would not be up to the Presi 
dent s Emancipation Edict." This information convinced me 



334 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

that the Secretary of War (Stanton) desired to prevent the 
proclamation from affecting slaves in the excepted parishes, and 
knew that for such work Banks was the man. 

It is curious to observe, in going over my notes of this period, 
how tentative and hesitant good men had become even in Massa 
chusetts. In the Commonwealth office itself there was a con 
sultation as to whether an article of mine, favourable (though 
with reservations) to Judge Conway s motion in Congress, should 
be published in the paper. It was opposed by the publisher, 
James Stone ; Elizur Wright thought it was against the previous 
position of the paper ; Albert Brown (of Salem) and Stearns 
rather favoured its insertion. While we were talking Judge 
Con way himself came in just from Washington, and rather 
thought that at that moment his resolution had better not be en 
dorsed by the Commonwealth editorially. So my article went in 
as a communication. Just then a Mr. King came in to say that 
the Peabody Institute at South Danvers, where I was engaged 
to lecture that evening, would prefer a literary lecture, as George 
Peabody, in building the Institute for them, had demanded 
that politics should be excluded. I told him I had no lecture 
with me except one on the crisis of the country. I think my 
large audience in that Institute found some pleasure in tasting 
the forbidden fruit. 

It soon appeared that our combat with slavery, so far from 
being ended, had to be renewed. The President had appointed 
as " military governor," in so much of North Carolina as his 
forces occupied, an old politician of that State named Stanley. 
There had long been a number of North Carolinians opposed to 
slavery, and pursuant to the President s proclamation these 
formed an association to promote its peaceful application to 
their State. But the President s representative, Stanley, went on 
denouncing abolitionists as strenuously as if the President s 
proclamation had been a pro-slavery document, and thwarted 
the association so bitterly that they appealed to the nation 
against him, declaring that he was repressing all their efforts to 
give practical effect to the President s edict of freedom. 

This and similar facts in the South determined the anti- 
slavery people in Boston to send a delegation to the President. 
This delegation consisted of Wendell Phillips, Dr. S. G. Howe, 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 335 

Francis W. Bird, George L. Stearns, J. H. Stephenson, Elizur 
Wright, the Hon. Oakes Ames, and myself. We arrived at 
Washington, January 23, 1863, and stopped at Willard s Hotel, 
where Phillips, Stephenson, and myself had to occupy one room. 
On the following evening, Saturday, we repaired to the White House 
by appointment. The President, however, called out by the 
Secretary of War (Stanton), could not see us, but left a request for 
us to come the following evening. In the meantime Wendell 
Phillips had managed to secure an interview with Mrs. Lincoln, 
which had put him in good spirits, for he found her by no means 
friendly to our Mephistopheles, Secretary Seward. 

It had been arranged that I should preach before the Senate, 
of which W. H. Channing was now the chaplain. The Unitarians 
who six years before had voted my dismissal were now sympa 
thetic listeners to my discourse in the Senate. For this great 
opportunity I had prepared with care. I conversed with my 
old adherents, with leading congressmen, and also visited some 
negroes. 

It was estimated that nearly two thousand were present in 
the Senate Chamber on Sunday morning, January 25. My theme 
was derived from the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman, 
" If thou knewest the gift of God," etc., and entitled " The 
Unrecognised Gift of God to America." A telegram in the New 
York Herald dubbed it " The Negro, the Saviour of America." 
This was not an unfair label. 

Thirty-seven years later, when witnessing in Paris Sarah 
Bernhardt s thrilling impersonation of " La Samaritaine " in 
Rostand s great miracle-play, the scene dissolved into that which 
I had endeavoured to uplift before the Senate. I indulge my 
old age with an extract : 

What did the woman see in him ? Only a wayworn dust-soiled 
Jew asking for a cup of water. 

How could she see before her, then and there, what you and I 
see looking through the vista of the ages in which that heart has been 
the well on life s highway, to which the weary and thirsting children 
of men have ever come for living waters ? . . . One longs to draw 
near to her unperceived, and whisper, " Woman ! do you not know 
him ? Can you not pierce that lowly garb, and recognise the great 
ness of the heart now beating so near you ? He is the divine Soul, 



336 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

anointed with the chrism of love to seek and save. He is to break 
down not only this barrier between Jew and Samaritan, but through 
countless ages all that divides man from man is to fall before him. 
O woman, be kind to him ; give him to drink ; receive his blessing ; 
for in the vast future there shall be millions who will say : Ah, that 
we could have had the privilege of that Samaritan woman, to give 
that blessed one a cup of water ; to ask of him living water ! 

And yet I suppose that if any of us who live now could have been 
present to say this, the Unrecognised One would have said, " Nay, 
but she is no more heavy-eyed than you will all be in your day ; for 
many times in new centuries and new worlds shall I meet you all 
on the waysides ; and you shall never know me, and will refuse me a 
cup of water." 

In the evening of that same Sunday we were ushered into 
the President s business-room, accompanied by Senator Wilson 
of Massachusetts. Lincoln entered laughing, and said that in 
the morning one of his children told him the cat had kittens, 
and as he was entering another told him the dog had pups, so 
the White House was in a prolific state. The hilarity disturbed 
us, but it was pathetic to see the change in the President s face 
when he resumed his burden. Senator Wilson began introducing 
us severally, but the President said he knew perfectly who we 
were, and requested us to be seated. 

The conversation was introduced by Wendell Phillips, who 
with characteristic courtesy expressed our joy at the proclama 
tion, and asked him how it seemed to be working. The President 
said he had not expected much from it at first, and so had not been 
disappointed ; he hoped something would come of it after a 
while. Phillips then alluded to the deadly hostility which the 
proclamation had naturally excited in pro-slavery quarters, and 
gently hinted that the Northern people, now generally anti- 
slavery, were not satisfied that it was being honestly carried out 
by the nation s agents and generals in the South. " My own 
impression, Mr. Phillips," said the President, " is that the masses 
of the country generally are only dissatisfied at our lack of military 
successes. Defeat and failure in the field make everything seem 
wrong." His face was clouded, and his next words were some 
what bitter : " Most of us here present have been long working 
in minorities; and may have got into a habit of being dissatisfied." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 337 

Several of us having deprecated this, the President said, " At 
any rate it has been very rare that an opportunity of running 
this administration has been lost." To this Mr. Phillips answered 
in his sweetest voice : "If we see this administration earnestly 
working to free the country from slavery and its rebellion, we will 
show you how we can run it into another four years of power. 
The President s good humour was somewhat restored, and he 
said : " Oh, Mr. Phillips, I have ceased to have any personal 
feeling or expectation in that matter I do not say I never had 
any so abused and borne upon as I have been." " Nevertheless 
what I have said is true," replied Phillips, who then went on to 
submit our complaint against Military Governor Stanley in 
North Carolina, urging the necessity of having in such positions 
men who were heart and soul in favour of his (the President s) 
declared policy of emancipation. The facts communicated to us 
from North Carolina were also submitted. The President did 
not deny them. He only said that Stanley was in Washington 
when the proclamation of September 22 was issued, and then 
said he " could stand that." " Stand it ! " exclaimed one of 
our number. " Might the nation not expect in such a place a 
man who can not merely stand its President s policy, but rejoice 
in it ? " This vexed the President a little, and he said : " Well, 
gentlemen, I have got the responsibility of this thing, and must 
keep it." " Yes, Mr. President," interposed Phillips, " but you 
must be patient with us, for if the ship goes down it doesn t 
carry down you alone ; we are all in it." " Well, gentlemen," 
said the President, bowing pleasantly to Phillips, " whom would 
you put in Stanley s place ? " Someone asked if it \vould not 
be better to have nobody there than an active opponent of the 
President s avowed policy. Another suggested Fremont, then 
without command, he being the natural representative of a 
proclamation of emancipation which he had anticipated in 
Missouri. " I have great respect for General Fremont and his 
abilities," said the President slowly, " but the fact is that the 
pioneer in any movement is not generally the best man to carry 
that movement to a successful issue. It was so in old times, 
wasn t it ? " he continued with a smile. " Moses began the 
emancipation of the Jews, but didn t take Israel to the Promised 
Land after all. He had to make way for Joshua to complete 
w 



338 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the work. It looks as if the first reformer of a thing has to meet 
such a hard opposition and gets so battered and bespattered, 
that afterwards, when people find they have to accept his reform, 
they will accept it more easily from another man." 

The humour and philosophy of this remark was appreciated 
by us, but someone said Fremont was hardly a pioneer, and men 
tioned the general welcome given by the loyal press to Fremont s 
proclamation in Missouri. The President said he did not believe 
that the Northern people as a whole regarded that proclamation 
with favour. 

Elizur Wright said he was convinced that the so-called 
" neutral " slave States were helping the rebellion more than the 
seceding States. He wished to suggest to the President that the 
government should not look for any action of those States on 
the slavery question, but should offer every slaveholder a bond 
of three hundred dollars for each of his adult slaves on condition 
that they and their children, if any, should be immediately set 
free ; said bonds to be payable when the rebellion was at an 
end and peace restored. The President listened closely to Elizur 
Wright, and replied at some length. He said that the proposition 
to deal directly with individual slaveholders came too late ; Con 
gress had acted, and would not take up the subject again. The 
President said he did not believe that his administration would 
have been supported by the country in a policy of emancipation 
at any earlier stage of the war. He reminded us that he had 
been elected by a minority of the people. " All I can say now is 
that I believe the proclamation has knocked the bottom out of 
slavery, though at no time have I expected any sudden results 
from it." I remarked to the President that if the course of 
military events should not be favourable between that time and 
the election next year, we might see the return of a power that 
would put the bottom in again, and his work be overthrown ; 
which would not mean merely a restoration of slavery, but of 
disunion, for never again could there be a union with slavery. 
There were a few moments of silence, and we arose. Mr. Phillips 
expressed our thanks for the kindly reception accorded us in 
calling his attention to statements of which some could hardly 
be welcome. The President bowed graciously at this, and said 
he was happy to have met gentlemen known to him by their 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 339 

distinguished services, and glad to listen to their views, adding, 
" I must bear this load which the country has entrusted to me 
as well as I can, and do my best." He then shook hands with 
each of us. 

In the course of the interview one remark was made by the 
President which ended my hope for peace. He said, " Suppose 
I should put in the South these anti-slavery generals and governors, 
what could they do with the slaves that would come to them ? " 

At that moment the Northern States were suffering for want 
of labourers, and the draft on their white workmen was steadily 
increasing. But it was not this and other facts showing his 
question rudimentary that I felt so discouraging ; there was in 
it a confession that he was putting forward in the South generals 
and governors who would not carry out his proclamation in good 
faith by freeing practically as many as possible of those declared 
free. It also indicated that although the proclamation was 
professedly a military measure he did not mean to use it to secure 
peace ; for it would compel the Southerners to fly to their homes 
and guard them only if the Union posts were in command of anti- 
slavery men. We thus were doomed to go on sacrificing the 
blood of the best men, Northern and Southern, to say nothing 
of the vast expenditure in money of which one month s outlay 
could provide a home or a place either at the North or in South 
America or in Haiti for every fugitive coming into our lines. 
They were needed everywhere. 

The fact that the proclamation had been countersigned by 
the Secretary of State instead of by the Secretary of War had 
excited some suspicion that Seward had requested this function 
with an ulterior view to its being ultimately set aside by the 
Supreme Court as not purely a war measure. President Lincoln 
was clearly not using his proclamation as a war measure. He 
showed a disposition to regard us as simply interested in the 
negroes, and we could not hold him to the fact that our aim was 
at slavery as the causa causans, the commissariat, the continuer 
of the war. 

On the evening after our interview with the President, we 
gave a dinner to our Massachusetts senators and representatives, 
with other anti-slavery members. The Hon. Henry J. Raymond 
of the New York Times was present, and perhaps one or two other 



340 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

eminent journalists. We had hoped to obtain from the speakers 
some important expression of opinion, but the speeches were 
mainly mere optimistic predictions of the great things that were 
going to be done. The heavy weight of the gloomy present 
was left on our shoulders. In private conversation we discovered 
that none of these leaders, except the Hon. Martin Con way of 
Kansas, were willing to utter in the Capitol criticisms on the 
administration they freely made in private. Even Senator 
Sumner, whom Seward was intriguing to deprive of the chair 
manship of foreign affairs, thought it necessary not to endanger 
his influence with the President by public remonstrances. We 
gave them our unanimous impression that such public criticisms 
need not be personally severe on the President, but were pre 
cisely what he needed ; he had virtually acknowledged to us that 
he was influenced by our political antagonists, and advised us to 
go on convincing the country. 

Our delegation returned to Boston, to our Commonwealth 
and our lectures and Bird Club talks, with a conviction that the 
President, with all his forensic ability and his personal virtues, 
was not competent to grapple with the tremendous combination 
of issues before him.* 

I had the happiness of making nearer acquaintance with 
Oliver Wendell Holmes, the author I ranked next to Emerson 
and Hawthorne in American literature. To have listened to 
his Lowell lectures on the English Poets was among the most 

* In 1885 I consulted some of the survivors of our delegation as to their 
remembrances of the interview with Mr. Lincoln. My friend Elizur 
Wright refreshed my memory as to his part in the conversation. Frank 
Bird thought that it was not Senator Wilson, as I still think, but the 
Hon. Oakes Ames, who introduced us to the President. Governor Andrew 
had given him (Bird) an official introduction to the President, which for 
some reason he did not deliver. Frank Bird adds in his letter : " The 
great defect, in my judgment, in Lincoln s character, was that he ignored 
moral forces as having anything to do with the government of this world. 
This nation cannot remain half slave and half free ; that is a proposi 
tion in political economy. I would save the Union without slavery 
if I can, with it if I must ; that is atheism. Don t praise Lincoln for 
what he was not. He had praiseworthy qualities enough without mis- 
writing history. It was the early abolitionists and anti-slavery men who 
aroused the conscience of the North and set in motion the moral forces 
which abolished slavery and made the Union worth preserving." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 341 

cherished souvenirs of my first year at Harvard College. Being 
the chief professor in the Medical School, and at the same time 
occupied with literature, he was too heavily tasked for me to 
avail myself of my opportunities for making his personal ac 
quaintance at that time ; but just after my graduation I was 
invited to a dinner of the Saturday Literary Club in Boston, and 
was seated beside Holmes. It was at the time when his " Elsie 
Venner " was beginning to appear, and he told me the story 
was suggested by the fabled fall of man. The hereditary lowering 
of a human constitution by the serpent s bite appeared to him a 
good theme for a romance. Amedee Achard, in his " La Vipere," 
evidently suggested by " Elsie Venner," seems to have recognised 
this, his afflicted heroine being named Eve. He spoke with high 
appreciation of Carlyle, especially of the essay on " Character 
istics." Holmes, was however, doubtful about Carlyle s theory 
that genius is unconscious of its power. He was fraternal with 
the Unitarians, and the witty speaker at their annual banquets ; 
but all that he wrote, and even the speeches, were pervaded by a 
spirit of scepticism. With profound affection for Emerson, he 
considered many of the transcendentalists sickly. " They throw 
away the healthy, ruddy-hearted book because they crave some 
thing for their inner life, " he said ; " their inner lives are 
perpetual mendicants." Emerson told me that Holmes once 
satirised the transcendental cant by asking, " And why is the 
nose placed in front, but that it may attain a fore-smell of 
the infinite ? " But Holmes told me that it was not he that 
said this. 

It was not only in religious matters that Holmes was sceptical, 
but in all sociological and political theories. He looked upon 
all such movements with a half-poetic, half -pathological interest, 
and sometimes humoured " reformers " as he might a patient, 
but never gave himself to any reform. He did not believe that 
the anti-slavery agitation could ever eradicate slavery, and told 
me that when troubles began in Kansas he inclined to my 
view that peaceful separation between the slave and the free 
States might be the only means of ending discord. 

Holmes loved to talk about his life as a medical student in 
Paris. He was the only American scholar and thinker I ever 
met who appreciated French genius and the moral greatness of 



342 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Paris. His scepticism I now think of as of the French type, and 
I have often been reminded of him in talking with Ren an. What 
he most felicitated himself upon was his leading part in securing 
the general use of anaesthetics. He told me that when ether was 
discovered he had such reverence for it that he thought it might 
possess some spiritual virtue, and resolved to experiment on 
himself to find if it had any psychological effect. He prepared 
the ether, and, having placed beside his bed a small table with 
pencil and paper to record his impressions on awakening, he 
lay down and applied the ether. Sure enough he presently 
found himself just conscious enough to seize the pencil, and with 
a sentiment of vast thought wrote down something. It proved 
to be these words : "A strong scent of turpentine pervades the 
Whole." But he was not satisfied with that, and made another 
effort. " This time," he said, " I felt as I wrote that I really had 
seen the secret of the universe. The words proved to be : 
Put Jesus Christ into a Brahma press and that s what 
you ll get ! " 

He told me of the incredible amount of superstition even in 
good society in Boston revealed to him by his experiences in 
securing the use of anaesthetics in childbirth. " I was denounced 
as a blasphemous infidel defying Almighty God, who had imposed 
on the female descendants of Eve the pains of childbirth. Even 
some fairly intelligent women preferred to suffer without such 
relief. It was a battle of years, and I had to give many lectures 
at our Cambridge Medical School to induce young physicians to 
deal resolutely with the matter." 

Of Nathaniel Hawthorne also I saw something in those days. 
He had aged considerably since the war began, and this trouble 
was complicated with his anxiety concerning the health of his 
daughter Una. I passed a day or two in the house of Mr. Fields 
with him, and remember well the evening when a number of 
ladies came in with the hope of seeing him. It was not long after 
dinner, but Hawthorne had gone up to his room. I was deputed 
by Mrs. Fields to go up and bring him down. I found him reading 
Defoe s ghost stories, and after listening to my request he so 
entertained me with talk about the stories that I almost forgot 
my mission. He asked me to tell him some of the ghost-lore of 
the negroes in Virginia, and showed much interest in those I 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 343 

remembered. Of one he made a note that of a tremendous 
conflagration towards which a number of negroes ran, but found 
there only one tiny fire coal. Hawthorne spoke of his disappoint 
ment in not meeting George Eliot. " I mentioned my wish to 
several ladies in London in whose houses I was a guest, but none 
of them were on visiting terms with her." He ascribed this to 
her irregular marriage with G. H. Lewes. He sent excuses to 
the ladies for not going downstairs. At breakfast he appeared 
with a meek look, as if expecting reproaches from Mrs. Fields ; 
but the sunshine characteristic of our charming hostess warmed 
him into a happy mood, and his talk was unusually free and 
easy. Most of it was about England, the country he loved much 
more than can be gathered from his book, " Our Old Home." 
Fields told me that Hawthorne was so troubled by the resentful 
press-notices of his book in the English papers that he begged 
him to send him no more of them. 

When the excitement of the conversation was over and 
Hawthorne had retired to the end of the room, there was in his 
face a look of pain and weariness. 

It was pleasant to meet Hawthorne on the street in Concord, 
but I recall no conversation of importance with him, nor did I 
seek any, having long felt that his genius was to be got at only 
in his pages. He was rather oftener, I believe, at Emerson s 
house than before he went to Europe. He was cheerful with young 
people, and I remember his being almost merry at a children s 
party in our house ; especially at a charade on the word " trans 
cendental." Emerson and Alcott were also present to enjoy our 
travesty of a transcendental seance, at which Frank Sanborn in 
troduced a poem : 

The world-soul rusheth 

Into the world s strife ; 
Hope gusheth 
Anew for life. 
From the sky 
Stars 
Fall ; 

In the wood 
Bars 
Growl : 
But what of that, O brave heart ? 



344 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

Art thou labourer ? 

Labour 

On ! 
Art thou Poet ? 

Go it 

Strong ! 

One day when there was to be a children s picnic in the 
woods near Walden Water, of w r hich my w r ife was one of the man 
agers, Hawthorne intimated to her that he would like to see the 
children at play if he could do so without being observed. My 
wife bade him come to a certain spot, and she would come to 
guide him to such a secret place if one could be found. A thicket 
or perhaps a hollow tree was found, and Hawthorne was the only 
man who witnessed the dances of the little fairies that day. 

If I had only known then as much of Hawthorne s feeling 
about the war as I discovered when writing his " Life " thirty 
years later, I would have availed myself of my opportunities 
to make a nearer acquaintance with him. " If," he wrote to 
his friend Horatio Bridge, " we are fighting for the annihilation 
of slavery, to be sure it may be a wise object, and offer a tangible 
result, and the only one which is consistent with a future union 
between North and South." How glad would Sanborn and I 
have been to print that sentence as a motto in our paper, the 
Commonwealth ! 

Perhaps I may anticipate here a further chapter sufficiently 
to relate the kindness of Hawthorne to my wife in the summer 
of 1863, when I was in England, and was being much condemned 
in America for my proposal to the Confederate envoy there for 
ending the war by Southern emancipation of the slaves. While 
my wife, left in Concord, was in distress because of this con 
demnation by our anti-slavery friends, Hawthorne treated her 
with marked kindness. When he heard that she was about to 
join me in England, she was invited to the Wayside, where he 
showed her his foreign photographs and entertained her with his 
reminiscences of persons and places there. This was always a 
grateful remembrance with us, but adds to the sadness with 
which to this day I think of the finest imaginative genius of his 
time there in his tower writing the tale of an elixir of eternal 
youth, while himself consciously sinking into his grave. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Foreign Complications My Excursion to England Incidents of the 
Voyage Mill on Liberty Welcome in London Sojourn at Aubrey 
House Miss Cobbe W. M. Evarts Visit to Cambridge University 
Henry Fawcett and Leslie Stephen. 

ABOUT this time complications with England were arising ; our 
golden hour for ending at once both the war and slavery had 
passed. The leaden hour had come ; we were compelled to 
support the war which the President had made our only hope of 
eradicating slavery, the root of discord. There was danger 
that this hope might be lost through the diversion of patriotic 
wrath from slavery to a traditional foreign enemy. Even 
Gladstone and Lord John Russell had accepted seriously the 
instructed protests of our foreign Ministers that " the condition 
of slavery in the several States will remain just the same whether 
it [the war for the Union] succeed or fail." The Confederates in 
England were utilising the diplomatic declarations of our govern 
ment favourable to slavery, confirmed by its actions and by our 
anti-slavery protests. The anti-slavery leaders in America were 
in constant correspondence with George Thompson and other 
friends in England who, like ourselves, had felt sure that slavery 
would certainly be destroyed by the war. 

It was at this juncture that it was proposed to me to give 
lectures for a few months in England. 

In February, 1863, my wife wrote in her diary at Concord 
now before me : " Wendell Phillips came to me to ask if I would 
consent to my husband going to Europe to lecture and persuade 
the English that the North is right. Reluctantly I consented, 
feeling that as he was exempt from serving as a soldier I had no 
right to prevent his being of service in some other way." 

It is probable also that my wife thought that the strain of 
work on me was too great. While editing the Commonwealth I 
was preaching every Sunday and lecturing one or two nights of 



346 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

every week. I had said my say in America ; I had borne my 
testimony, as the Quakers say, in all the towns of Ohio, in every 
important town of New England, and in the chief cities of New 
York, in Philadelphia and surrounding places, and in Washington. 
I had written innumerable articles and letters in papers and 
magazines, and my two books on the crisis were in wide circula 
tion. It appeared, therefore, a fair time for me to go for a few 
months to represent the moral and political situation as viewed 
by American anti-slavery people. Emerson did not like my 
going, but gave me letters of introduction to Carlyle and others. 
I carried a letter from George W. Curtis to Browning, and many 
from William Lloyd Garrison to the anti-slavery leaders. Mr. 
and Mrs. George Stearns sent by me a life-sized bust of John 
Brown for Victor Hugo. 

In my diary on the steamship City of Washington I find 
the following paragraphs : 

April 21. I repair to the library a good deal, and for the first 
time make good acquaintance with Victor Hugo, to whom I am carry 
ing a bust of John Brown. The execution of John Brown was yet 
in suspense when Victor Hugo declared that it would be " Washington 
slaying Spartacus " ; and when it occurred Victor Hugo drew with 
his pencil a sort of fog through which was barely visible a gallows 
with a dim human form hanging from it : beneath the picture was 
written simply the word Ecce ! * 

I have brought along John Stuart Mill s new book on Liberty, 
published in Boston the day I left. It is the book of wonderful 
truisms, of startling commonplaces. In reading it one feels that such 
a book should be in the course of college study everywhere, so axiom 
atic are the laws it states ; and yet there is scarcely a State on earth 
that would not be revolutionised by a practical adoption of its princi 
ples. Mr. Mill s views of social and individual liberty are in the direc 
tion of those stated by Wilhelm von Humboldt in his " Sphere and 
Duties of Government." " The grand, leading principle " (says Hum 
boldt), " towards which every argument unfolded in these pages 
directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human 
development in its richest diversity/ He also says that " the end of 
man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal or immutable dictates 
of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the 
highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a com- 

* Now in the Victor Hugo Museum, Paris, opened in 1903. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 34; 

plete and consistent whole." Mr. Mill, taking this high position, 
lays his corner stone of society to wit : " That the only purpose for 
which power can be rightly exercised over any member of a civilised 
community against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own 
good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant," to interfere 
with his independence. With regard to Mormonism, he maintains 
that society has no right to interfere with polygamy so long as it is 
understood that the women and men are voluntary parties to the 
system. 

In London there had been formed an active league of sympa 
thisers with the Union cause in America, the leading spirit of 
which was Peter Alfred Taylor, Member of Parliament for 
Leicester. This society received me with open arms, and soon 
after my arrival Mr. and Mrs. Taylor invited me to make Aubrey 
House my headquarters while lecturing. 

In the interval before my lectures could begin came Derby 
Day. It seemed my only opportunity for witnessing the annual 
event for which Parliament adjourns. I never had any interest 
in racing, but was eager to see the English masses. I reached the 
place soon after nine, and found the scene amusing ; but by 
eleven I had " done " all the side-shows and gypsies, etc., and 
did not care to wait another hour to see the Derby. On my 
walk to the station for London, a mile away, I met a long pro 
cession of wagons laden with people on their way to the race- 
ground. They hailed me, chaffed me, and shouted with laughter. 
I was actually too " green " to understand their merriment 
until I reached the station ; it was locked up and silent. All had 
gone to the Derby. Next day I read in a paper that amusement 
was caused by one solitary individual who just before the Derby 
was seen making a bee-line for London. 

While I was staying in Aubrey House a number of ladies of 
high position gathered there and formed an association for the 
circulation of leaflets and essays relating to the struggle in 
America. Among these ladies were Madame Venturi (nee 
Ashurst) and her sister, the wife of James Stansfeld, M.P., Mrs. 
and the Misses Biggs, Mrs. William Malleson, Mrs. Frank Mal- 
leson. 

The most distinguished of these ladies was Miss Frances 
Power Cobbe. This lady was well known to me by her im- 



348 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

portant work on " Intuitive Morals," and she had long been 
associated in the minds of American liberals with Theodore 
Parker. She was a lady of Irish family, and in her face there 
were the fresh colour and the expression of sensibility and good- 
natured humour characteristic of the well-bred Irish lady. 
Although more rationalistic than Dr. James Martineau was then, 
she was his warm friend, and I always believe enlarged his the 
ology ; for she was a woman not only of general culture, but 
thoroughly instructed in the problems of theology. At the 
beginning of May she brought me the manuscript of her pamphlet, 
" The Red Flag in John Bull s Eyes." The Red Flag was made 
up of all the cries about " negro insurrection," " rapine," "^horrors 
of St. Domingo," etc., with which Confederate sympathisers were 
seeking to enrage John Bull. Miss Cobbe had not only studied 
all the history of the negro in the West Indies, but carefully 
collected all the facts concerning the conduct of the slaves during 
our war ; with power and accuracy her pamphlet tore the red 
flag to tatters. 

The efforts made by the Confederates in England at this 
time were desperate. They derived help from several London 
journals, which printed every American item that might irritate 
English pride. They even took up the insults of George Francis 
Train as utterances of a representative American. 

I was promptly raised to the dignity of an " emissary." At a 
meeting in Exeter Hall, May, 1863, Tom Hughes was listened 
to, but when I was introduced as a slaveholder s son a tremendous 
confusion filled the house, and it was several minutes before I 
could get a quiet audience. 

About this time W. M. Evarts arrived in London to confer 
with the law officers concerning captured mails, etc. I met him 
at a breakfast given by Lord Houghton to Lord and Lady Dufferin, 
all being warm supporters of the anti-slavery side in America. 

On the invitation of Edward Dicey and friends of his at Cam 
bridge, I attended Commemoration there. Mr. Evarts had been 
invited by the same gentleman, and we were guests of Henry 
Fawcett and Leslie Stephen, who had a suite of rooms in Trinity 
Hall. Our two hosts were already known beyond the limits of 
their university as men who would make their mark on the 
country. It was, I believe, principally Fawcett and Leslie 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 349 

Stephen whose independence had given Trinity Hall a reputation 
for radicalism. At one of the dinners there to which our hosts 
had invited some brilliant young men, various stories, artistically 
adorned, were told about the two men. One of these related 
that an old Tory squire had brought his son to enter college, and 
preferred Trinity Hall, where his ancestors had been educated. 
But on arrival he had heard sad rumours that Trinity Hall had 
become a nest of radicals. Learning that its chief residents were 
Fawcett and Leslie Stephen, of whom he had never heard, the 
squire repaired to their rooms with his son, and was politely re 
ceived. When he had told them of his desire to enter his son at 
Trinity Hall, and of the dreadful radicalism said to be prevalent 
there, the two scholars managed to reach an understanding. 
Then Fawcett gravely informed the inquirer that it was true that 
some of them had at one time been rather infected with extreme 
opinions, but now, he added, " we have greatly moderated our 
views, and shall be contented simply with disestablishment of the 
Church and abolition of the Throne." The story was of 
course followed by a description of the squire s rush out of the 
building, dragging his son. 

The impression made upon me by Fawcett is ineffaceable. 
The pathetic sentiment excited by seeing that noble head with 
its beautiful blond hair and the handsome countenance, whose 
every feature was so quick with intelligence, save alas ! the 
sightless eyes, presently vanished before his cheerfulness and a 
play of thought which forbade pity. He comprehended our 
situation in America, even its details, with a completeness that 
surprised Evarts as well as myself. The mischance by which 
the accidental discharge of his father s gun, when they were out 
shooting, had extinguished both eyes, and the courage with 
which he had assured his parents in their agony that the blindness 
should make no difference in his career, have often been related ; 
but my friendly relations with him while he was in Parliament, 
and to the end of his life, enabled me to remark a more complete 
fulfilment of that promise than was at first imaginable. In fact, 
the years seemed hardly to touch that serene and happy face. 
The last time I heard him speak in public was at Mr. Campbell s 
institution for the blind near the Crystal Palace. In a memorable 
address to the large assembly of blind pupils and their friends 



350 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

he gave some of the experiences of blindness in his own case. He 
said that the mental pictures produced by descriptions given or 
read to him were so vivid and realistic that he had many times 
referred to them as things he had seen, until he had afterwards 
found that they occurred after he was blind. The address, 
the simplicity with which it was delivered by his sweet and clear 
voice, and the responsive smiles on those young faces, represent a 
scene that remains in my memory as one of sublimity. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

First Interviews with the Carlyles Carlyle s Ridicule of Ballot-boxing 
His Appearance Introducing Americans to Carelly Samuel Long 
fellow Carlyle s Progress Ideas of Religion Limitations His 
Great Heart. 

IN a modest old house, apart from the great whirl of fashion, 
resided Carlyle, the man to whose wonderful genius more than 
to any other is to be attributed the intellectual and spiritual 
activity of his generation. The building he inhabited was 
significant to him. " Look at these bricks," he said ; " not one 
of them is a lie. Let a brick be once honestly burnt, and the 
cement good, and your wall will stand till the trump of Doom 
blows it down ! These bricks are as sharp as the day they were 
put up, and the mortar is now limestone. The houses all around 
us crumble, the bricks in them were made to crumble after sixty 
years that being the extent of most of the leases. They are of a 
piece with the general rottenness and falsehood of the time." 

A strange thrill passed over me when I first stood face to 
face with these grand features. Emerson had introduced me 
(the letter is printed in their Correspondence), and he met me, 
pipe in mouth, cordially. For a few moments I was left with 
Mrs. Carlyle, who was too thin and pale to preserve traces of 
beauty, but had a look of refinement and dignity. Among the 
solemn portraits on the wall were two modern miniatures of 
beautiful ladies nude to the waist. " You may be surprised," 
she said, " at seeing such portraits in a grave house like this. 
They were found in the tent of a Russian officer during the Crimean 
war, and presented to Carlyle." Cheerful, kindly, witty, and 
frank, she conversed pleasantly of the habits and labours of 
Carlyle. She thought the Life of Frederick a terrible piece of 
work, and wished that Frederick had died when a baby. " The 
book is like one of those plants that grow up smoothly and then 
forms a knot, smoothly again and then forms another knot, and 



352 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

so on ; what Carlyle is when one of those knots is being passed 
must be left to the imagination." Carlyle was a picture of 
meekness when his wife said this. 

An American politician holding some post on the Continent 
came in just as we were at nine o clock tea, and soon got Carlyle 
into a stormy denunciation of " ballot-boxing." But the Ameri 
can was ignorant, and while Carlyle was firing cannon on a sparrow 
I silently observed him. Tall, and almost slender, with a longish 
head, bent forward from slightly stooping shoulders, with a 
magnificent brow overhanging a tender blue eye that sometimes 
flashed, a short beard and moustache, a ruddy colour at times 
overspreading the whole face with flushes, a voice that began 
gently but could rise to a tornado which usually burst in laughter 
that ended in a fit of coughing, nervous movements of fingers 
and shoulders telling of overstudy, an undertone of grief, even 
in his laughter these characteristics together wove a charm 
in notable contrast with that of Emerson. In his presence 
I recalled the sublimity mingled of beauty and awe which im 
pressed me in the Mammoth Cave. 

He was interested to know all I could tell him about Emerson, 
and brought out a photograph he had recently obtained, desiring 
to know if he looked just like that now. I was able to show 
him a much better one. All that he said about Emerson indicated 
the strongest personal attachment. 

My second interview with him was during a walk which he 
had invited me to take with him. On the appointed moment 
of the afternoon I arrived, and was shown into the room at the 
top of the house where he was writing his history of Frederick. 
There were about a thousand books, every one as he told me 
bearing upon the history he was writing, the regular library being 
downstairs. On the walls were a score of pictures, all either 
portraits of Frederick or engravings related to his life. " I have 
found it," he said, " of the utmost importance to surround myself 
with the images and illustrations of the man whose history I am 
writing." 

When we started on our walk he began at once upon America, 
the ballot-box, and negro emancipation. He was amused at 
Anthony Trollope s report to him of a phrase he heard from 
Emerson in a lecture : " This American eagle, of which we hear 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 353 

so much, is a good deal of a peacock." There was more in that, 
he thought, than in most books about America. "A lie can 
never be uttered in this world but those who utter it will be paid 
for it what they deserve. Nothing I have ever witnessed so fills 
me with astonishment and sorrow as the present condition of 
things in America. I see it all as fire rained out of the heavens." 
I said I quite agreed, but should probably differ from him as to 
the evil the fire was raining on. He said, " Ah, I was once an 
emancipator, too, and used to spout whole chapters of Martyn, but 
I came to see that I was following a delusion." Just then we 
passed along Church Lane, where Swift used to live, and Carlyle 
began to talk about him with much feeling. He declared Swift a 
man of the finest force of every kind, and spoke bitterly of the 
way in which he had been swamped under " the pressure of an 
evil time," then added with a sigh, " but his case is not that of 
one alone." 

It was impossible not to love this man, however much I 
might deplore his opinions about slavery, so entirely was he 
speaking what he regarded as truth, and so guileless was his 
whole expression. The humility that is characteristic of all real 
genius was very striking in Carlyle. In his talk the personal 
reference was rarely made unless it was to mention, as in the 
above remark, some error into which he had fallen. 

Although brought up with a holy horror of profanity, I 
found a certain satisfaction in Carlyle s occasional " damnable." 
Emerson once said in a lecture, " The oath should be a solemn 
superlative ; sham damns disgust." Indeed, I once heard 
Emerson, in speaking of a disguised interviewer who printed and 
exaggerated what he said about Swinburne, say, "It was one 
of the damnable things." In Carlyle s utterance there was a 
kind of authenticity in his " damnable," or in the less frequent 
" damned." The invocation " damn " he never used, his brands 
never being affixed to persons, but to evil systems and falsities. 

It was impossible with this frank, outspoken man not to 
enter at once upon the great social problems of the hour ; though 
he seized upon them and went on in wonderful monologue, with 
pressure full and high whether going with or against the sentiment 
around him. It was formidable ; whilst he spoke I felt a dreary 
scepticism chilling me, and seemed to hear cries of despair 



354 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

coming out of the heart of nature. All was going wrong ; our 
ballot-boxings, our negro emancipations, our cries for liberty, all 
showed nothing but that the nations were given over to believe a 
lie and be damned. Possibly, indeed, the only way to Paradise 
lay thus through hell ; but what the people were seeking thus 
they would never obtain. Not New Jerusalem but New 
Gehenna they would find it. 

" Ballot-boxing ! Why, we have tried that vox populi in 
England. There was a certain Russell here who managed to 
get hold of some land which properly belonged to others ; was 
supposed to have no end of sovereigns ; was at once adored ; 
got easily into Parliament. Presently it turns out that he has 
no money at all. He comes out and confesses that none of the 
land he has is his own that he has forged a will to get it. And 
when the matter is looked into it is found again that the will is 
genuine, that he did not forge it at all, but confessed himself a 
scoundrel in order to make some money, and save some land by it. 

" Then there was Hudson, who cut up a vast deal of good 
land with railroads which ran here and everywhere, whether 
they were wanted or not. The people got around him voted 
that Hudson was the fountain of living waters. Every man 
came with his subscription, gave his five pounds or hundred 
pounds to Hudson. I remember well how he used to strut about 
with flaps like fins on his dress. Bishops preached about him, 
countesses flirted with him, he was borne to Parliament by 
acclamation he had three million pounds. One day it was all 
turned to ashes this man balloted for. The other day we heard 
that his wife was buying old clothes, and didn t know where the 
next loaf was to come from. 

"Wherever your ballot-box comes in it will bring broods of 
Russells and Hudsons. As soon as your ballot-box is opened, 
out springs the most whippable rascal that can be found. You 
know well that in America, for years, you have had your meanest 
men in the White House. 

" But so they all go pell-mell. There is no real king that 
will be sought for ; though I do know some men who are kings 
loyal men in their workshops, discerning the laws of this uni 
verse and obeying them. Ah, a king is a rare gift ! " 

But how little can anyone report the charm of Carlyle s 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 355 

conversation ! of the wealth showered on the visitor intent on 
getting near the man s heart ! I soon perceived that the vehe 
mence of Carlyle in discussing public affairs was due to the torture 
he suffered in seeing the errors and agonies of mankind. I 
resolved not to put him on that rack, and although when we met 
some mention of events in America was inevitable, and I might 
be wounded, the boulders were left behind and I passed, as it 
were, into beautiful walks and swards, with which Carlyle re 
stored and delighted the soul he had just troubled. Nothing 
was too small for his study and interest. He would pass in a 
moment from talk about Frederick or Bonaparte to tell the story 
of some poor little lady unknown to fame, so sweetly that the 
mist gathered to one s eyes. At every moment I was impressed 
by the truth of John Sterling s characterisation of Carlyle in 
The Onyx Ring," where as Collins he figures along with Goethe 
(Walsingham). I had read the story in my youth, and although 
in later years I do not accept the censorious estimates of Goethe, 
John Sterling s Carlyle has appeared to me as profound as Carlyle s 
Sterling. 

Emerson told me that when he was in England (1848) some 
young men had asked him to introduce them to Carlyle, and 
he had said, " Why do you wish to have vitriol thrown upon 
you ? " I was prepared by this for sharpness and severity, but 
I found tenderness and sympathy. Personally, that is to say ; 
but I had discovered the vitriol, too the man s relentless con 
frontation of optimistic visions and " reforms " with an insight 
that pierced their bias. One after another the believers in one 
or another national or humanitarian ideal had ceased to visit 
him, finding his ideas too depressing. 

One evening, when Froude and I had gone together to Car 
lyle s, and had listened to a particularly vigorous arraignment 
of the movements supposed to be progressive, we walked awa}J 
in silence. Then I remarked, " All that is a dreary enough 
outlook." Froude answered, " Yes, and the worst of what he 
says is, that it is true." 

I was not prepared to admit this, but there had been steadily 
revealed to me under Carlyle s touchstone unbiassed thought 
that my own opinions which I had supposed really my own, and 
for which I had sacrificed early prejudices, were by no means so 



356 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

thoroughly rooted in my personally digested studies and con 
victions as I had supposed. 

Occasionally American writers in London asked me to intro 
duce them to Carlyle. Always cautious about introductions, I 
was particularly so with regard to Carlyle, and invariably warned 
these visitors that if they desired useful visits they had best 
leave the initiative of talk entirely with Carlyle. Nothing would 
be gained by raising before him any red rag of Radicalism. 
David A. Wasson, John Burroughs, and some others whom I 
took to Carlyle s house, observed my advice, and had successful 
visits. My friend Samuel Longfellow, who came over there with 
his nephew Ernest (son of the poet), was cordially received. 
Carlyle had pleasant feelings towards the poet Longfellow, and 
there was an unworldliness and modesty about our beloved 
Samuel which availed to shield him from the usual stormings 
with which Carlyle met the optimistic American. For when 
Carlyle had said something against universal suffrage, Samuel s 
conscience overbore my warning, and he made some mild plea 
for democracy. Carlyle after a moment s silence said smilingly 
and in a meditative tone, " Then in Jerusalem you would have 
given Jesus and Judas the same vote ? " Samuel s utter in 
ability to answer was amusing. Charles G. Leland, whom I 
took there, also grappled with Carlyle, and got the worst of it. 

The paradoxical position taken up by Carlyle on that matter 
impressed a great many more Americans than ever ventured to 
admit their misgivings in public. Carlyle told me that after his 
unintended offence to Americans in speaking of their millions as 
" bores," he had been visited by a considerable number of their 
influential men who entirely sympathised with his feelings about 
popular suffrage. " I have nothing but the kindest feelings to 
wards the Americans. Personally, I have indeed the best reasons 
for gratitude to them ; there was something maternal in the 
way in which my works were taken up there in a time when they 
were neglected in this country. The first money I ever received 
for any book of mine was brought into my house from Boston. 
So far as this democratic tendency is concerned, I have rather 
envied America ; we in this country are in the same train on the 
same track ; we are linked on just behind the American com 
partment ; they will be smashed first, but we just after them, by 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 35; 

dashing against the law of the universe that wisdom in govern 
ment cannot be obtained from the collective ignorance and folly 
of swarms of men. If that delusion is ever recovered from, it will 
probably be soonest in America. But, alas ! the dreadful war 
going on there renders all calculations vain." 

Once when his brother, Dr. John Carlyle, was present, we 
two and Mrs. Carlyle being the only listeners, Carlyle referred 
to slavery. " I have no dislike of the negroes. By wise and 
kindly treatment they might have been made into a happy and 
contented labouring population. I do not wish for them any 
condition which I would not under like circumstances wish for 
myself. No man can have anything better than the protection 
and guidance of one wiser and better than himself, who would feed 
him and clothe him and heal him if he were sick, and get out of 
him the exact kind of work that he is competent to achieve. 
Many a man is driven by a cruel mastery of circumstance and 
want to do whatever will yield him a crust of bread, and others 
never master what they have ability to achieve in these days 
of emancipation. There is my brother John sitting there ; the 
world will never get out of him the best that is in him." Here 
the rest of us began to laugh, the doctor being amused and giving 
a gesture of assent. Mrs. Carlyle said, " And what about Mr. 
Thomas Carlyle ? " " Ah, well," the answer came with a sigh, 
" Thomas Carlyle tried in every way possible to him to get some 
practical work for which he believed he had some competency ; 
was baffled at every attempt ; and he has been compelled to travel 
on the only path open to him." 

Thomas Appleton, brother of the poet Longfellow s wife, 
told me that one evening when he was conversing with Carlyle 
he mentioned some favourite writer of his, and Carlyle called the 
said writer a " phrase-monger." " I was vexed," said Appleton, 
" and retorted on him by saying, Well, Mr. Carlyle, what are 
the best of us but phrase-mongers ? Very true, sir very true, 
said Carlyle, breaking into a laugh. And the evening passed off 
more pleasantly than ever." 

When the Union war had nearly closed, Carlyle spoke so 
stormily against emancipation that Mrs. Carlyle the only other 
present interrupted him. " Carlyle," she said, " you ought not 
to talk so about his cause to a man who has suffered and 



358 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

made sacrifices for it." Carlyle, who always took his wife s 
reproof meekly, turned to me and said softly, " You will be 
patient with me. All the worth you have put into your cause 
will be returned to you personally ; but the America for which 
you are hoping you will never see ; and never see the whites 
and blacks in the South dwelling together as equals in peace." 

How often in these last years have I reason to remember 
that prophecy ! 

Carlyle I have found curiously misunderstood in England 
and America, even by his admirers. He is supposed to be a 
worshipper of force, and of military leaders. But it was because 
the European masses resorted to violence in 1848 that he lost 
all faith in the people ; it was because Louis Napoleon reached 
power by massacre that Carlyle proclaimed him a " swindler " ; 
he opposed every war waged during his time. 

The thing that especially amazed me about Carlyle was the 
extent of his intellectual pilgrimage. From the spring of 1863 
until shortly before his death in 1881 I saw him often. During 
that eighteen years after my thirty-first birthday I had studied 
scientific problems under great scientific men and revised my 
religious and political philosophy ; I had entered new phases of 
thought and belief ; but there was never one in which Carlyle 
had not been there before me. He had studied closely every 
philosophy, generalisation, and theology. He knew every 
direction where an impenetrable wall would be found, and every 
deep and byway of speculation. 

Another erroneous impression about Carlyle is that he was 
stationary in his ideas. But Carlyle, even within my memory, 
grew in a way rare among literary men in advanced years. I 
remarked this especially in regard to the discovery of Evolution. 
In 1864 he manifested a certain wrath against the great generalisa 
tion of Darwin. I find notes of a talk in which he said that the 
theory of the development of one species from another was one 
that used to be very much discussed in the time of old Erasmus 
Darwin. He remembered a discussion among the students in 
their debating society in Edinburgh in which the question was 
whether man was descended from a cabbage or a clam. The 
debate, of course, brought the whole matter into ridicule, and 
he thought it was decided in favour of the clam. Omnia e concha. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 359 

" It all appeared to me a damned irreverent kind of speculation 
by men unable to^look into the great deeps of human nature. 
What do these men know about the mysteries not only of the 
universe, but of the mind and the nerves of man ? " I was 
told by one who was present at a dinner given in the house of 
Professor Masson in Edinburgh after Carlyle s installation as lord 
rector, that Carlyle, finding himself among scientific evolutionists, 
became very much excited and cried out, " You tell me that 
despite all the mysteries of man s nature, just because his heel 
or something else is shaped so-and-so, it shows that he is a 
modified ape ! " And then he so raged that the company saw 
fit to change the subject. That was in 1866. A few years later 
I heard him talking of the subject, and he had got so far as to 
speak of it without wrath, saying with a laugh, " If my pro 
genitor was an ape I will thank you, Mr. Huxley, to be polite 
enough not to mention it ! " About the year 1879 I was talking 
with him about the worship of Force with which his name was 
associated. " But what conception of Force have most people ? " 
said Carlyle. " Only some mere brutal and blind elements, while 
the real Force proceeds in silent and quiet ways, seeming small, 
but really irresistible." " That," said I, " appears not unlike 
that force of natural selection of which Darwin has written ; by 
which some small variant in the direction of a larger and finer 
species starting in some hardly perceptible differentiation gradu 
ally grows into a new race." " And why," he answered, " should 
not that be the real history of nature ? " "I believe it is, but 
it is not such a pleasing thing to me as I thought it when Emerson 
preached it and Charles Darwin announced his theory. What 
are we to make of the agonies and horrors of nature ? Or what 
of the deformities and miseries of human nature ? The theo 
logical theory is that all these things are to be redressed and 
compensated in a future world. Do you believe that all those 
swarming criminal, debased, drunken people are to live for ever ? " 
" Let us hope not ! " cried Carlyle, with a laugh. " It might 
astonish you if I were to give my notion of where all these horrible 
things come from." 

With that Carlyle arose and put on his gloves for the walk 
for which I had been invited. We plunged pretty soon into a 
yellow fog, which Carlyle described as " one expression of the 



360 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

superlative ugliness of so many people crowded together." We 
met Sir Leslie Stephen, who walked with us. On our way we 
encountered a repulsive beggar, who asked for money, and Carlyle 
began to fumble in his pocket. One of us gave a coin to the 
beggar, and Stephen said he would no doubt spend it in the 
nearest gin-shop. " Very likely," said Carlyle ; "no doubt it 
will be a momentary comfort to the poor fellow." 

One Christmas afternoon I called to offer greetings to Carlyle. 
He said, " Ah, yes ; I had forgotten ; but just now passing the 
public-house at the corner, I remarked that the crowd was larger 
and drunker than usual, and then I remembered that it was the 
birthday of their Redeemer." He then went on to speak with 
solemn feeling about religion, saying finally, with animation, 
" There is but one real religion passionate love of the good, 
passionate abhorrence of the reverse. Its aim is simply to get the 
best man in power and the worst man chained ! " 

There were, from my point of view, limitations in Carlyle. 
" Care is taken that the trees do not grow up into heaven," 
says Goethe. Even in Emerson I was compelled to admit limita 
tions as life went on ; he could not recognise the exquisite genius 
of France, and some Sabbatarian sentiment survived in him. 
Robert Ingersoll, with whom I was conversing about our great 
Americans, spoke with especial enthusiasm of Emerson, but ended 
by saying, " After all, there was a baked-bean side even to Emer 
son ! " The humour of this bit of symbolism is hardly appreciable 
outside of New England, where the Sabbatarian dish survives its 
pristine moral importance. In the same way there was a survival 
in Carlyle of the old Scottish antipathy to Roman Catholicism. 
He said one day that he had intended to go that morning to an 
anti- vivisection meeting, but on hearing that Cardinal Manning 
was to be there he threw down his hat. " The room does not 
exist which can hold Manning and me ! " 

Some other limitations of Carlyle, as I conceive them, are 
elsewhere mentioned, the most serious perhaps being his in 
difference, not to say antipathy, to the fine arts. He appreciated 
portraits, but even there he grumbled whenever he had to sit 
for his own. In the last year of his life an admirable artist, 
Helen Allingham (wife of the poet), went and sat by his side, 
determined to paint him waking, reading, or sleeping and he 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 361 

could not resist the lovely lady whom he had long known. As to 
the portraits, he was indifferent for a time, but at length, when 
he looked at one picture and saw among the chaos of pigments his 
own countenance looking up at him, he began to be interested. 
So William Allingham told me, and we both felt that the interest 
had unfortunately come too late. Carlyle would have taken a 
less gloomy view of the world if he had only realised that art was 
the real creator at work to produce the fairer world. 

Ah, what a heart was in him ! When our child Emerson 
died, Carlyle, who rarely made calls, travelled across the seven 
or more miles to visit us in our sorrow. His sympathetic talk, 
his narrative concerning his mother, and her grief at the loss of a 
child, his appeal that we should bear up under our distress and 
find consolation in what remained to us, were to us the voice of 
the great love that while dealing with the history of empires 
marked the sparrow s fall. Carlyle told me that my article in 
Fraser (August, 1864) on " The Transcendentalists of Con 
cord " had produced an excellent impression. I had sent the 
manuscript to him without mentioning any magazine ; and he 
had sent it to Froude. He told me that I had evidently much to 
say about America that would be useful to English readers, and 
that Froude desired further contributions. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

English Authors and the American War Ruskin on War English Re 
publicans John M. Forbes in London The Confederate Propa 
gandists, John R. Thompson and Mr. Fairn, in London The 
Confederate Envoy Mason A Communication of Lincoln to Bright 
Opinions of Browning My Correspondence with Mason My 
First Speeches in London Meeting at the London Tavern, and 
John Bright s Speech Effect in England of my Mason Correspond 
ence A Mob in Manchester T. B. Potter, M.P. My Letter to the 
London Times Misleading Reports in America Criticism by 
Wendell Phillips Interview with Minister Adams Christopher 
P. Cranch in Paris Visit to W. D. Ho wells in Venice The 
Charms of Venice Austrian Rule. 

DR. OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, in a lecture on " The American 
Weaning," 1864, spoke with sharpness of the silence of English 
literary men towards the American struggle. Had I been an 
Englishman I could have made a reply. President Lincoln had 
proposed at his inauguration to change the Constitution so as to 
render slavery eternally secure ; his Secretary of State had openly 
instructed his Minister in London that the status of no individual 
would be altered by the war ; the Proclamation of Emancipation 
excluded from freedom a fourth of the slaves, all within our reach ; 
it was followed by the systematic military prevention of slaves 
from escaping. Why, then, should Englishmen feel any interest 
in a murderous struggle to preserve a Union which American 
anti-slavery men had for years tried to dissolve ? Why should 
Englishmen be concerned about a province seceding from our 
Union any more than Americans would be should Ireland secede 
from Great Britain ? As a matter of fact, two-thirds of the 
English authors espoused the Union cause, some of them actively 
Professor Newman, Mill, Tom Hughes, Sir Charles Lyell, Huxley, 
Tyndall, Swinburne, Lord Houghton, Cairnes, Fawcett, Frederic 
Harrison, Leslie Stephen, Allingham, the Rossettis. Others were 
silent because they hated war and did not believe it could secure 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 363 

any benefit Ruskin, Anthony Froude, Herbert Spencer, and a 
few others. Charles Kingsley, the only literary man who warmly 
espoused the Southern cause, may have thought he was on the 
side of Carlyle, whom he worshipped but rarely saw ; but Carlyle, 
while opposed to emancipation, respected the desire of the Ameri 
cans to preserve their Union. Tennyson, whom Dr. Holmes 
named in his lecture, did not share Carlyle s views about slavery, 
and his silence was due to the American denunciations of England. 
Tennyson had received hundreds of extracts from American 
papers, in not one of which was any friendly word. But for this 
tone, which, as I wrote to the Commonwealth, " he feels to be 
insulting and significant of a dominant puerility in America," 
Tennyson would probably have manifested his sympathy with 
the North. Some eminent men, whose thinking on American 
matters was done by the London Times, were really alarmed by 
such diatribes against England. 

Although Ruskin was said by Tom Hughes to be " captive 
of Carlyle s bow and spear," I should say rather that he was 
captivated by the grand figure of the man. Ruskin hated 
war above everything, and proposed that whenever a war broke 
out every woman should drape herself in deepest mourning until 
the return of peace. His friendship with Charles Norton was 
warm, and he had duly credited the United States with Emerson 
and several other writers ; but he could not sympathise with a 
war for territorial integrity of his own or any country, nor with 
one for emancipation. He was so burdened with the degraded 
condition of the labourers and peasants of Europe that he con 
sidered the negroes little worse off; but he did not, like Carlyle, 
idealise slavery, nor could Ruskin admire any hero of the sword. 

The agitation in England in favour of the North had been 
mainly carried on by leaders of the Aborigines Protection Society, 
who were fervid, but their tone assumed that all slave-holders 
were like the heavy villain in " Uncle Tom s Cabin," and repelled 
discriminating thinkers, many of whom had travelled in the South 
and known good hearts there, and witnessed their humane 
treatment of slaves. 

Nor have American censors of England considered the extent 
to which considerations of humanity were enlisted. The re 
taliatory proclamation of the Confederate President, declaring 



364 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

the purpose of Lincoln s Proclamation of Emancipation to be the 
incitement of negro insurrection and massacres, was justified by 
President Lincoln s arming of negroes, and by the enthusiasm 
with which the anti-slavery men were canonising John Brown 
for his effort to excite negro insurrection. Our armies were 
marching South to the " song " glorifying a would-be lyncher of 
white Southerners. 

As a Southerner I knew that a negro insurrection was im 
possible. There had gone on for generations in that race a sur 
vival of the submissive ; the last of the Nat Turners had long 
been evolved out of existence ; the negroes were incapable of 
military organisation among themselves ; they were gentle, and 
hoped for freedom only in Heaven, their road to which was 
mapped in the Bible, which said, " Servants, obey your masters." 
All this the Confederate President knew as well as I did, and his 
proclamation about negro insurrection was no doubt meant for 
effect on humane people in Europe. That it did not have more 
effect was due to the bizarre spectacle of armies marching to the 
John Brown song and thrusting escaping slaves back into bondage. 

It remains to be said that the Union cause was in America 
without any figure that struck the imagination. The tragical 
death of Lincoln threw a halo around him, but up to that time he 
had excited little admiration in Europe. To the English people 
the two striking figures in the North were the humble printer, 
Garrison, awakening the conscience of his country, and the aris 
tocratic barrister, Wendell Phillips, devoting his life to the cause 
of the black man. 

On my arrival in London I found there John M. Forbes, of 
Boston, a man long known to me, as to so many others, for his 
sound judgment as well as his lovable nature. " I am glad," 
he wrote to me, April 27, " to hear of your arrival, as we need all 
the help our friends can give us to keep out of mischief, and your 
varied information about slavery will be most available." I was 
fortunate enough to see a good deal of him. We passed several 
evenings at the house of Fanny Kemble, where American affairs 
were talked over with reference to the Confederate intrigues in 
England. Mr. Forbes believed that a chief difficulty lay in the 
feeble interest taken by leading Englishmen even Mr. Gladstone 
in an evil so remote as slavery. I myself felt keenly the silence 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 365 

concerning our conflict on the part of several leading literary men. 
Our cause had largely fallen into the hands of dissenting 
preachers, Newman Hall being especially prominent, and it was 
mainly in their chapels that our meetings were held. All through 
May I had a feeling that I was teaching only the already taught : 
also that there was an accent of the conventicle in our conferences 
that limited their influence. 

The Southerners quite misunderstood Carlyle. One evening 
Mrs. Carlyle mentioned that after Carlyle had written his " Latter 
Day Pamphlet " on the negro question, suppressed in the Northern 
edition of the pamphlets but published in the South, he received 
from eminent Southerners letters suggesting that England should 
restore slavery in her West Indian possessions, in which case the 
slave States would unite with them, and a great British empire 
be formed in the New World. Mrs. Carlyle mentioned no names, 
and I asked no questions. Carlyle spoke of the scheme as wild, 
one he could have no sympathy with at all, but said to his wife 
mildly, " It might have been as well not to trouble Mr. Conway 
with that ; I can conceive that it might become his duty to 
report it to America." It did startle me that eminent South 
erners, some ten years before the war, should have wished to 
throw their States and slavery under the protection of the 
British flag, but they must have known little of Carlyle to suppose 
he had any wish to see Great Britain expanding. Abhorring the 
condition of the mass of labourers around him, Carlyle idealised 
the condition of the negroes in the Southern States ; that 
was all. 

In my conversation with Carlyle and other literary men, I 
found that an active propaganda in the interest of the South 
was carried on by an apparently unofficial Confederate, John R. 
Thompson, who was sometimes accompanied by a Mr. Fairn, who 
Carlyle thought had some negro blood. Thompson was for many 
years editor of the Southern Literary Messenger at Richmond, Va. 
I had occasionally met him, and several of my early productions 
were printed in his magazine. Though not eminent as an author, 
he was an agreeable writer, a man of fine taste, the friend of 
literary aspirants, altogether an important literary figure in 
Virginia. His gentlemanly presence, pleasant manners, and 
intimacy with the Confederate leaders secured him entrance in 



366 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

both aristocratic and literary society in England, all of which I 
should have regarded as well merited by so accomplished a Vir 
ginian but for the fact that he was carrying with him a pro-slavery 
influence injurious to the anti-slavery cause. In his interesting 
(posthumous) journal of English experience recently published, 
he mentions having seen me in a corridor of the House of Commons, 
but I did not see him. Carlyle told me that Thompson first called 
on him with an autograph letter from General Stonewall Jackson 
recommending the bearer, as I understood, to Carlyle personally, 
though Carlyle never knew Stonewall Jackson. I never heard 
him allude to any Confederate leader with admiration. Thompson 
was intimate with the Carlyles. Carlyle poured out statements 
of Thompson and Fairn, and I sometimes wondered at never 
meeting them. However, there was now a Virginian at each ear, 
not only of Carlyle, but of some other literary men whose silence 
about America distressed me. 

The Confederate envoy in England, John M. Mason, I had 
met in Virginia (see chapter vii.). I took pains to avoid him in 
London ; he was well acquainted with my public life, and would 
naturally regard me as a traitor to Virginia. But Mason was 
skilful in his sphere, and I attributed to him the assiduous use of 
the fatal documents tending to prove that slavery was not the 
real issue, and that the abolitionists were a small group of fanatics 
following a delusion. What was a Proclamation of Emancipa 
tion when four months after it (May n) Wendell Phillips in view 
of a notorious pro-slavery man (Halleck) made commander-in- 
chief, anti-slavery generals all removed, and Congress refusing 
to abolish slavery where within their reach declared that pro 
clamation " the idlest national work, childish work " ? 

While the administration was thus withholding with its right 
hand what it had given with its left, President Lincoln realised 
the importance of making some demonstration in England against 
slavery. Early in May, 1863, John Bright received from Senator 
Sumner the subjoined letter dated April 27 : 

Two days ago the President sent for me to come to him at once. 
When I arrived he said that he had been thinking of a matter on 
which we had often spoken the way in which English opinion should 
be directed ; and that he had drawn up a resolution embodying the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 367 

ideas which he should hope to see adopted by public meetings in 
England. 

I enclose the resolution, in his autograph, as he gave it to me. 
He thought it might serve to suggest the point which he regarded as 
important. 



Whereas, While heretofore States and Nations have tolerated 
Slavery, recently, for the first [time] in the world, an attempt has 
been made to construct a new Nation, upon the basis of, and with 
the primary and fundamental object to maintain, enlarge, and per 
petuate human slavery ; therefore, 

Resolved, That no such embryo State should ever be recognised 
by, or admitted into, the family of Christian and civilised nations, 
and that all Christian and civilised men everywhere should, by all 
lawful means, resist to the utmost such recognition or admission.* 

John Bright could not use such a document as that ; it would 
have been ridiculed in any Unionist meeting in England, as 
implying that the object of the war was merely to keep slavery 
within its existing territorial bounds. 

One day I was conversing with Robert Browning in his 
library, and alluded to " Shooting Niagara," the new utterance 
of Carlyle against the Union cause in America. Browning de 
scribed Carlyle s brief fling as " a grin through a horse-collar," 
but said that the coercive measures of the North had never yet 
been justified in England by any assurance that its aim was to 
emancipate the slaves and re-establish the Union on a basis of 
universal freedom. Browning thought that the English writers 
were confused about the whole issue, and that some honest 
thinking men believed that emancipation would be fully and 
happily completed only by severance of the South. I asserted 
that the anti-slavery leaders in America were notoriously opposed 
to war, and would never have supported would not now support 
a war for any other purpose than to uproot the institution 
which had not only held four millions of blacks in bondage and 
blighted the Southern country, but kept the whole nation in 

* Sumner s enclosure is in Lincoln s handwriting. The original is 
framed at " Millfield," Street, Somerset, residence of Mr. and Mrs. (Helen 
Bright) Clark, by whose permission I print it. 



368 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

discord from its foundation, and finally plunged it into an abyss of 
blood. I explained the powerful pressure on the administration 
to preserve some root of the evil that bred strife. Triumph of 
the South would preserve all the roots, and probably make the 
United States an empire of slavery and perpetuate civil war. 
The English writers of reputation could do us no good by 
exalting a Union which as yet maintained the oppression strik 
ing at its heart, but they could do us and humanity great 
service by assuming the conflict to be one between freedom and 
slavery, and by writings so emphasising its connection with 
the world-wide struggle for liberty that it would amount to 
a demand on our government to uplift before mankind a 
stainless banner. We wanted no victory for a Union with 
slavery in it. 

Browning thought that it would do good if the anti-slavery 
Americans should declare before the world that they had no 
desire to subjugate the South except for the liberation of the 
slave and the nation from the long oppression. After some 
further talk I told him I would challenge the Confederate envoy 
in England on that point. I think I then and there wrote with 
pencil and showed him the substance of the letter, which as sent 
was as follows : 

AUBREY HOUSE, NOTTING HILL, LONDON, W. 

June 10, 1863. 
HON. J. M. MASON, Com r, etc. 

SIR, I have authority to make the following proposition on 
behalf of the leading anti-slavery men of America, who have sent 
me to this country : 

If the States calling themselves " The Confederate States of 
America " will consent to emancipate the negro slaves in those States, 
such emancipation to be guaranteed by a liberal European com 
mission, the emancipation to be inaugurated at once, and such time 
to be allowed for its completion as the commission shall adjudge 
to be necessary and just, and such emancipation once made to be 
irrevocable, then the abolitionists and anti-slavery leaders of the 
Northern States shall immediately oppose the further prosecution 
of the war on the part of the United States government, and, since 
they hold the balance of power, will certainly cause the war to cease 
by the immediate withdrawal of every kind of support from it. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 369 

I know that the ultimate decision upon so grave a proposition 
may require some time ; but meanwhile I beg to be informed at your 
early convenience whether you will personally lend your influence 
in favour of a restoration of peace and the independence of the South 
upon the simple basis of the emancipation of the slaves. 

Any guarantee of my responsibility and my right to make this 
offer shall be forthcoming. 

I am, sir, yours, etc., M. D. CONWAY. 

Mason s reply was as follows : 

24, UPPER SEYMOUR STREET, PORTMAN SQUARE, 

June 11, 1863. 

SIR, I have your note of yesterday. The proposition it contains 
is certainly worthy of the gravest consideration, provided it is made 
under a proper responsibility, yet you must be aware, that whilst 
you know fully the representative position I occupy, I have not the 
like assurance as regards yourself. 

If you think proper, therefore, to communicate to me who those 
are, on whose behalf and authority you make the proposition referred 
to, with the evidence of your " right to make this offer," I will at once 
give you my reply, the character of which, however, must depend 
on what I may learn of your authority in the premises. 

I am, sir, your obdt. serv., J. M. MASON. 

I remarked that Mason s writing on his envelope my first 
name, which I had not signed, indicated his knowledge of the 
renegade Virginian he was writing to. My reply was as 
follows : 

AUBREY HOUSE, NOTTING HILL, LONDON, W- 

June 14, 1863. 

SIR, Your note of the nth has been received. I could easily 
give you the evidence that I represent the views of the leading aboli 
tionists of America ; but with regard to the special offer which I 
have made, I have concluded that it was best to write out of America 
and obtain the evidence of my right to make it in a form which will 
preclude any doubt as to its sufficiency. 

I shall then address you again on the subject. 

1 am, etc., M. D. CONWAY. 

Y 



3;o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Then came the following : 

24, UPPER SEYMOUR STREET, PORTMAN SQUARE, 

Juns 17, 1863. 

SIR, I have received your note of yesterday. 

You need not write to America to " obtain the evidence " of your 
right to treat on the matter it imports. Our correspondence closes 
with this reply it was your pleasure to commence it it is mine 
to terminate it. 

I desired to know who they were, who were responsible for your 
mission to England, as you present it ; and who were to confirm the 
treaty you proposed to make, for arresting the war in America, on 
the basis of a separation of the States, with, or without, the sanction 
of their government. But such information is of the less value now, 
as I find from an advertisement in the journals of the day that you 
have brought to England letters of sufficient credit from those who 
sent you to invite a public meeting in London, under the sanction 
of a Member of Parliament who was to preside, to hear an address 
from you on the subject of your mission, with the promise of a like 
address from him. 

This correspondence shall go to the public, and will find its way to 
the country a class of the citizens of which you claim to represent. 
It will, perhaps, interest the government, and the soi-disant " loyal 
men " there to know, under the sanction of your name, that the " lead 
ing anti-slavery men in America " are prepared to negotiate with the 
authorities of the Confederate States for a restoration of peace, 
and the independence of the South, on a pledge that " the abolitionists 
and anti-slavery leaders of the Northern States shall immediately 
oppose the further prosecution of the war on the part of the United 
States government ; and since they hold the balance of power, will 
certainly cause the war to cease by the immediate withdrawal of every 
kind of support from it." 

As some reward, however, for this interesting disclosure, your 
inquiry whether the Confederate States will consent to emancipation, 
on the terms stated, shall not go wholly unanswered. You may be 
assured, then, and perhaps it may be of value to your constituents 
to assure them, that the Northern States will never be in relations 
to put this question to the South, nor will the Southern States ever 
be in a position requiring them to give an answer. 

I am, sir, your obedient servant, 

J. M. MASON. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 371 

The correspondence appeared in the London Times of June ig, 
preceded by the following note, dated June 17 : 

SIR, As part of the political history of the times the correspond 
ence transmitted herewith may have sufficient significance to call 
for its publication. I submit it to you accordingly for a place in 
your columns. 

I am, sir, very respectfully, your ob t servant. 

J. M. MASON. 

Although Mason was criticised as having dealt a foul stroke 
in publishing my letters, I could not complain of this. He 
knew that I would in some way use against his cause whatever 
he could say in answer, and equally his silence if he returned no 
reply. I might not indeed have printed his letter, but I should 
have shown it to Browning and to any others I found heeding 
the declarations of Mr. Spence of Liverpool and others that the 
Confederacy contemplated emancipation. 

The Emancipation Society was active, and convened a meeting 
for me on May 7, in Finsbury Chapel, at which Hon. Rev. Baptist 
W. Noel presided. 

On the following evening, May 7, a meeting was held in 
Islington to receive Rev. Sella Martin, described as a fugitive 
slave, and I was invited to speak. Martin made a statement 
concerning the prejudice against coloured people prevailing in 
the Northern States so sweeping that it involved the abolitionists. 
I felt bound to say that when I first saw Mr. Martin he was at an 
anti-slavery meeting in Boston seated between Garrison and 
Phillips, and I felt certain that the abolitionists had no prejudices 
against colour. My speeches at the two meetings just mentioned 
caused the Emancipation Society to arrange a scheme for my 
addressing meetings in various parts of the country. P. A. 
Taylor, M.P., and his wife were much interested in this, and 
invited a company of eminent gentlemen to meet me at dinner 
at Aubrey House, among them John Bright, Richard Cobden, 
T. B. Potter, M.P., of Manchester, and other members of Parlia 
ment. It was arranged that I should have a public reception at 
the London Tavern, at which John Bright consented to take the 
chair. Although Bright had occasionally expressed his sympathy 
with the North, his abhorrence of war equalled his detestation 



372 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

of slavery, and he had not, I think, hitherto made any complete 
statement on the situation in America. He prepared with 
great pains the speech with which he introduced me at the 
London Tavern on the evening of June 16. He especially made 
a breach in the stronghold of the Confederate sympathisers in 
England by pointing out the precarious situation of the cotton 
interest, which had rested on slavery. His own personal interests 
and those of the people he represented could now be restored 
only by the complete abolition of the treacherous system in the 
Southern States, which indeed had led him some years before to 
suggest the cultivation of cotton in India. Slavery abolished, 
European emigration, hitherto confined to the North, would go 
to the South. Thus the business interests of England coincided 
with its highest sentiment and morality. I have mentioned only 
one point of Bright s speech, which occupied an hour, and was 
delivered with an eloquence that stirred the large and distinguished 
audience. 

Before I spoke at this meeting an extract from a letter to 
George Thompson from Garrison was read by John Bright, and 
some sketch of my life given.* 

The London Tavern meeting was reported and commented on 
in every paper, and the Confederate envoy, Mason, awoke on 
June 17 to a certainty that my proposition, as yet unanswered, 
was authorised, and also that in the moral combat I must have 
the advantage in an anti-slavery country. Mason, unable as I 

* BOSTON, April 10, 1863. 

" You are such an attentive reader of the Liberator and Standard that 
the name and services of the bearer of this, Mr. Moncure D. Conway, 
author of "The Golden Hour" and "The Rejected Stone," etc., must be 
familiar to you, so that he will need no special introduction. Allied by birth 
and relationship to the first families of Virginia, the son of a prominent 
slaveholder, brought up in the midst of slavery and all its pernicious 
influences, classically educated, he has for several years past been the 
brave, outspoken, fervid advocate of the anti-slavery cause, bringing to 
it all of Southern fire, resolution, energy, and persistency ; and, conse 
quently, has made himself an exile from his native home and common 
wealth for an indefinite period, though as true to the honour, safety, 
wealth, and progress of Virginia, as to the pole. You will know how 
to appreciate such a moral hero, and he will rejoice to make your personal 
acquaintance." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 373 

foreknew to impawn the tenure of slavery, the immediate jewel 
of the Southern soul, had no alternative but to strike at what 
might possibly be my vulnerable point. My second letter sug 
gested a means of bringing me into disgrace with the official 
agents of the United States, and the American abolitionists into 
collision with the administration. In this way he was not only 
to punish me as a Virginian renegade, but if my anti-slavery 
friends in America should ratify my proposal, the government 
would repudiate them and implicitly admit that it was not fighting 
for emancipation. 

My second letter to Mason was a virtual admission that 1 
had made a mistake in writing the first. The Anti-slavery 
Society generally, in particular its great chieftain Garrison, had 
for so many years been advocates of non-resistance principles, 
and had so unanimously opposed suppressing secession by blood 
shed until war had actually broken out they had so constantly 
directed all their efforts simply to control and influence the 
horrible cyclone to the one end of extirpating its fatal source for 
ever ; that it had never occurred to me that now, if that source 
were at once removed, any of them would countenance bloodshed 
for the sake of political and economic interests. Of course my 
letter to Mason was strategical, and had I not known that my 
proposal could not possibly be accepted, it would not have been 
made before correspondence with anti-slavery leaders in America. 

The unexpected publication of the correspondence by Mason, 
with my virtual admission that my general authority did not 
extend to any particular act of that kind, embarrassed my 
English friends a good deal. The Emancipation Society felt it. 
necessary to publish a declaration that they were unaware of 
any such correspondence when they summoned the meeting at 
the London Tavern. The Manchester committee, which had 
engaged me to give an address in Free Trade Hall, and similar 
committees in other cities where appointments were scheduled, 
were troubled. Nevertheless, Mason s side of the situation 
speedily attracted more attention than mine. Mason s final 
letter was universally regarded as an admission that the Southern 
Confederacy was founded on slavery. Meetings were held 
throughout the country fastening this upon the Confederacy. 1 
subjoin a typical declaration addressed to Mason : 



374 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, SHEFFIELD, 
June 25, 1863. 

SIR, This committee have had under consideration your letter 
of the I7th instant in reply to Mr. Conway, and published by you in 
the Times. 

Wholly disapproving of the improper conduct of Mr. Conway t 
the committee confine their remarks to the last paragraph of your 
letter. You are aware that nothing could be more hideous, hateful, 
and loathsome to honest and true Englishmen than your audacious 
avowal of your determination to maintain slavery, and your defiant 
prediction that you will succeed. Yet you are unmolested, unscathed, 
untouched. The committee call upon you to contrast your treatment 
in England, where slavery cannot breathe, to the treatment which would 
be given to an Englishman amongst the slave-holding and slave- 
loving rebels whose emissary you are, were he to make a public declar 
ation amongst them in the opposite sense to yours. He would be 
treated as would be a rat which should make its appearance in the 
streets of London, or as a venomous reptile which had given notice 
of its presence by scattering its venom round. You are not so treated ; 
although you are loathed and detested, yet England endures even your 
presence in her midst. Your obedient servant, 

ISAAC IRONSIDE (Chairman).* 

When the correspondence appeared I was on my way to fill 
engagements in the provinces. In my absence consultations 
were held between Peter Taylor, John Bright, and Samuel Lucas 
Mr. Bright s brother-in-law, editor of the Morning Star with 
the result that on the igth June this paper had a leader turning 
the tables upon Mason. Among the telling points I quote one 
or two. 

Mr. Mason is evidently unconscious of, or unconcerned at, the 
possibility that honest, simple-minded Mr. Conway may have been 
baiting a trap for him and that the threatened penalty of exposure 
to obloquy at home may be very complacently suffered by one whose 
real object was to draw from Mr. Mason a refusal, expressed or implied, 
to stop the horrors of war by an act in which the United States have 
no more interest than humanity at large. Whether or not that was 
Mr. Conway s object, it is the effect of Mr. Mason s letter, and as such 
it should be prized by the English friends of Union and Emancipation. 

* A number of such declarations were sent me, but none of them 
were made with my knowledge or at my suggestion. 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 375 

It is the fashion here to deny that the war is being prosecuted by 
the North for the abolition of slavery, and to assert that the South 
would use its independence to confer freedom upon its bondsmen. 
To the English public, therefore, it may be useful to have a distinct 
proof that, to men of considerable influence in the North, emancipation 
would be a sure ground of peace, and that the Confederate representa 
tive spurns the idea of purchasing political independence by relin 
quishing property in human beings. This humanitarian aspect of 
the American conflict is that which commands the largest share of 
attention in Europe. Strong as are the sympathies of all true Liberals, 
in this country and on the Continent, with the Union, yet stronger, 
because both wider and deeper, are the feelings excited by a contest 
for the personal liberty of four millions of men and women. In the 
face of Mr. Conway s offer and Mr. Mason s reply, it is impossible to 
pretend that the South cares for independence except as a means of 
perpetuating slavery. 

Similar articles appeared throughout the country. The re 
action in my favour among my friends and in the Emancipation 
Society was immediate. Their struggle against the Southern 
sympathisers was on the eve of its crisis in the House of Commons, 
where Roebuck was to introduce on June 29 his motion for 
recognition of the Confederacy. There was fear that his motion 
might be carried, and my rash step was partly inspired by that 
danger. Its effect was at once visible not only in journals 
friendly to us throughout the country, but in the wrath of the 
Confederate organs generally, and especially in the altered tone 
of the Saturday Review * 

* " His (Mason s) employers also would be right in refusing any 
negotiations on their own internal affairs, but there would be no occasion 
for stipulations or promises if they commenced by their own authority the 
great work of raising and gradually liberating the negro race. The same 
task has been accomplished in every country in Europe, in the absence of 
the exceptional facilities which are afforded by the unquestioned authority 
of the white Americans, and by the ineffaceable distinctions which render 
political rivalry impossible to the freedman. The Confederates may be 
well assured that the sympathy which has been earned by their wLdom 
in council, and by their heroism in the field, will never be extended to 
their favourite domestic institution." Saturday Review, June 20. 

The Spectator (June 20) said : " We shall be surprised if the effect 
on the whole perhaps the carefully calculated effect of Mr. Conway s 
measure, be not to convince Englishmen of the utter futility of their hopes 
for a Confederate emancipation." It describes Mason s answer as "a 



3 ;6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Censure from my friends was swiftly silenced by the invective 
of Mason s friends. Their anger was displayed by the well- 
dressed mob which I encountered at Manchester. My address 
was to be delivered on Sunday afternoon, June 21, in Free Trade 
Hall, the largest in England, which was crowded. Mr. Potter, 
their member of Parliament, presided, and all the preachers 
were on the platform. Before proceeding to my lecture, I took 
care to exonerate the chairman and Mr. Bright and the Emancipa 
tion Society from any connection with my correspondence with 
Mason. I had not proceeded far in my address when about two 
hundred men began a deliberate attack on the platform. This 
platform was five or six feet above the floor, and the assailants 
attempted to climb up. Some were pushed back by the preachers, 
but others succeeded and grappled with them. Meanwhile a 
large number rushed forward for defence, and after a twenty 
minutes scrimmage the English Confederates were overpowered 
and removed from the hall. 

It was a large mob which had got into all the front seats 
but it was not dangerous. It " meant business," but this was 
not to harm us physically it was to take possession of the chair 
and platform and pass resolutions supporting Roebuck s motion 
for recognition of the Confederacy. They drew no arms, and 
had trusted to their numbers ; but newspaper comments on my 
Mason correspondence had drawn such an enormous audience 
that they were vastly outnumbered. During the entire melee I 
stood quietly at the desk, not one hand laid on me, and when the 
last mobsman disappeared, continued without omitting a word 
of my carefully prepared lecture which was next day in circula 
tion as a pamphlet (printed without my knowledge). 

Thus I hardly merited the honour accorded me of having 
been mobbed in Free Trade Hall. The row was an advertisement 
for me, and also illustrated the spirit of the Confederates, who 
in trying to seize the chair imitated in their small way the attempt 
on the executive chair at Washington. 

somewhat enigmatic piece of braggadocio, but conveying, we take it, in 
connection with the whole tone of the letter, Mr. Mason s conviction that 
however agreeable to the Confederates the prospect of peace and in 
dependence with slavery may be, war, or even subjugation, would be 
preferable to casting away this corner-stone of their great edifice." 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 377 

At Manchester I enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. Potter. He 
was a large gentleman with a happy optimistic countenance 
such as I have rarely seen. His long service to every " pro 
gressive " cause, his generosity with his wealth in all such move 
ments, and his excellent judgment, on which the old Corn Law 
orators Cobden, Bright, W. J. Fox had always depended, as 
now the emancipationists made him a historical personage. 
The last time I saw this venerable member of Parliament was 
when he managed to attend, despite his great age, an annual 
dinner of the Cobden Club at Greenwich, on which occasion the 
special homage of the assembly was paid to him, Mrs. Fisher 
Unwin, Cobden s daughter, and several other ladies descended 
from the old reformers, being around him. 

After my Sunday afternoon lecture in Manchester, I left the 
same evening for London, and found my friends at Aubrey House 
cheerful at the turn the Mason incident had taken. Miss Sarah 
Remond, sister of the eloquent coloured American, Charles 
Lenox Remond, had for some years been adopted as Mrs. Taylor s 
companion, and could not fail to be pleased that I had set emanci 
pation as the one vital aim in the war. 

I addressed, June 22, the following letter to the Times, which 
was at once published : 

To the Editor of the " Times." 

SIR, Absence from London has prevented my giving such care 
ful attention to the correspondence between Mr. Mason and myself 
as was necessary to make the explanation which the public on both 
sides of the ocean will naturally expect of me. 

In the correspondence, as it stands, there are three parties involved 
namely, the abolitionists of America, myself, and Mr. Mason with 
his confederates. 

As to the first, it was to pounce upon them and compromise them 
with their government that Mr. Mason rushed into print so eagerly 
that, though only a little way from London, I did not receive his 
last letter until half a day after I had seen it in the Times. But I 
wonder that Mr. Mason did not see, what the Americans will certainly 
see, that my second note to him admits that my authority extended 
definitely only to the declaration that the abolitionists of America 
were giving moral support to this war simply and only in the interest 
of emancipation, and that when that issue ceased to be involved 



3;8 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

they would no longer sustain it ; " but that, with regard to the special 
offer," I must write out and get a special authority. This left it yet 
an open question whether the anti-slavery men were " prepared to 
negotiate with the Confederate authorities." He springs his snare 
before they are in it. They are not compromised at all. They do? 
indeed, stand committed to an unwillingness to prosecute this terrible 
war for any less important aim than the complete wiping out of their 
country s crime and shame, but it has all along been their avowed 
position that they are, to quote Wendell Phillips, " willing to accept 
anything, union or disunion, on the basis of emancipation." 

Then, of the abolitionists, I alone am implicated by this corre 
spondence. And here I am ready to confess that my inexperience in 
diplomatic and political affairs has led me to make a proposition, the 
form of which is objectionable. Recognising Mr. Mason only as an 
unofficial though representative Southerner whose views would be a 
test of the disposition of the rebels on the subject of slavery, and 
anxious to afford that test to certain very eminent literary men in 
England, who acknowledged that the reply to such a proposition 
would decide their feelings with regard to the issue, I inferred hastily 
and improperly that the right to declare the object of the abolitionists 
in the war justified me in sending the proposition to Mr. Mason per 
sonally. As this, " my first correspondence with the enemy," was 
undertaken only in the interest of my country, and was virtually a 
demand for the surrender of the enemy s capital, I shall hope that 
the apparent disloyalty of it, of which I was unconscious, will be con 
doned by the country I meant to serve. 

But Mr. Mason and his confederates are implicated in this matter 
in a way to which I desire to call the attention of those gentlemen 
to satisfy whose minds I wrote the proposition, and of all others 
who think that the South is fighting for any worthier independence 
than impunity in permanently robbing another race of its independence. 

In order to compromise the abolitionists, Mr. Mason concedes 
that I had authority to make the offer of independence for emancipation. 
He acknowledges, on the strength of Mr. Garrison s letter of credit, 
that I had that authorisation to which, when shown him, he had 
promised a reply. So the English public know now, with a clearness 
which my own blundering way of evoking such a confession did not 
merit, what the reply of the South is to a proposition offering her 
" freedom." as she calls it, on the condition of her according the same 
to the millions whom she oppresses. Whether I had the right to 
make the offer or not, it is answered. The believer in the golden rule 
has only to ask himself what would be his interest in the success of 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 379 

the Northern arms if his own wife and children were to-day under 
the lash on a Southern plantation, now that we have Mr. Mason s 
assurance that every gateway except that of war is closed. I am, etc. 

Meanwhile the effect of this Mason affair in America was not 
so favourable as in England. The leading anti-slavery people 
repudiated my action with a vehemence which I never understood 
until many years later I discovered that their explosion occurred 
before the correspondence arrived. The first announcement in 
New York was in a brief summary of " News from Europe," in the 
Tribune of June 30 : 

A correspondence between Mr. Mason and Mr. Conway is published, 
Mr. Conway claiming to be authorised to offer in the name of the 
abolitionists and leaders of the anti-slavery parties an active co-opera 
tion for an immediate cessation of hostilities, if the South would com 
mence at once the work of emancipation. Mr. Mason asked for the 
credentials of Mr. Conway, and Mr. Conway informed him that he 
would send for them to America. Mr. Mason declared, however, 
that the South would never be able to enter seriously into such a 
negotiation. 

What the summary given in Boston was, I know only by a 
letter written by Mr. Garrison to the Tribune dated June 30, 
which shows that not only were all my cautious provisions for 
placing the emancipation under the guarantee of "a liberal 
European commission, etc.," omitted, but the anti-slavery 
leaders were pledged to withdraw " supplies " from the war. 
This substitution of the military term " supplies " for " support " 
looks like ingenuity on the part of the summarist. In Mr. 
Garrison s letter to the Tribune, which I did not see at the time, his 
first reason for repudiating my proposal was " that no reliance can 
be placed upon the word of those who stand before the world 
black with perfidy and treason, and in the most dreadful sense 
as hostes humani generis." I should of course never have dreamed 
of suggesting, even in a proposal I knew would be refused, trusting 
emancipation to slaveholders. The actual correspondence came 
by another ship on July I, and appeared in the Tribune of July 2. 
Whether it had been read by Wendell Phillips before his speech 
at Framingham on July 4, I do not know. In that speech, re 
ferring to me, he said : 



3 8o THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

I think that his intentions were as honest as the midday sun is 
clear. (Hear, hear, and applause). I think that his devotion to 
the great cause of human liberty is as single-hearted as when he took 
his father s seventy slaves, every one of their holders a rebel but him 
self, and led them with such devoted and self-sacrificing earnestness 
to freedom on the northern banks of the Ohio. (Loud applause.) I 
know at the same time that he does not represent in that offer one 
single man on this side of the Atlantic. I do not say I believe it, 
but I say my own knowledge joined to his I know it. Now I 
wish to say further that I entirely agree with the essence of that offer. 
The Union without liberty is to-day tenfold more accursed than it 
was any time the last quarter of a century. Union without liberty 
I spit upon. . . . But if the sun were forbidden ever again to rise, 
and I could have sunrise again by asking Mason, I would remain 
in the dark for ever rather than speak to the author of the Fugitive 
Slave Bill. 

This inconsequent declaration about Mason, who was no 
more guilty of the said bill than the congressmen who passed it 
and the Northern President (Fillmore) who signed it, was not 
important in itself ; Phillips would have embraced Mason could 
he thereby have ended oppression for others ; but his rhetoric 
was significant. Although he agreed, as he said, with the essence 
of my letter, and although only one voice (the Anti-Slavery 
Standard, New York) said that the war should be continued 
even were slavery not involved, it became plain to me that the 
old peace principles of abolitionism had largely vanished. 

In England the Mason incident was closed so far as concerned 
myself by the defeat of Roebuck s bill, to which Mason s arrogant 
reply to me was said to have contributed, and by the odium under 
which he soon after finally left England. But those events did 
not reach America, and it was some time before any sign of a 
reaction there favourable to me appeared. The London papers 
reported from their American correspondents only rage against 
me. I felt sure that a different feeling would prevail in those 
whose esteem I most valued ; I was prepared to suffer obloquy 
for the sake of unmasking Mason ; but my terrible anxiety was 
for my wife. Though her mother and brother George were with 
her at Concord, it was inevitable that all this anger should give 
her keen distress. I had, of course, written to her by every mail, 
and suggested that if she and our intimate friends thought that 



MONCURE D. CON WAY. 381 

my stay in England should be prolonged, she had better join me 
in London. My departure had long been fixed for early Sep 
tember, but I concluded that it must be postponed until I had 
time for full correspondence with my wife. 

And now my dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Howells, came 
into my gloom as angels. Howells, then consul at Venice, had 
written to me on March 24, enclosing some verses for the Common 
wealth. We had not exchanged letters for a long time, and he 
had no knowledge of my intention to visit Europe ; but he wrote 
in the letter, which was forwarded to me from Boston, these 
sweet words : 

To tell you the truth, you and Mrs. Conway are two people whom 
we should very much like to see in Venice. The spring is coming on 
after the " slow, sweet " fashion of spring in southern lands ; the 
Adriatic is warming up with the view of being bathed in ; the sun is 
bringing out all that is brightest and loveliest in the city and embroider 
ing the islands and the terra fir ma with flowers. Four weeks ago we 
gathered daisies on the Lido ; and now the almond-trees are heavy 
with bloom and bees. Besides all this, we live in the old Palazzo Faliero 
(where Marino Faliero, according to all the gondoliers, was born), 
and we have a piano and a balcony on the Grand Canal, and the most 
delightful little breakfasts in Venice. You will come, won t you ? 

The we is not used editorially here. Of course you know that 
I am married, and to whom. Though I ve never heard directly from 
you, I used to hear a great deal about you, in letters from Cincinnati. 
You have an additional merit in my eyes because you met Elinor 
there. 

In a letter to my wife of May 8, I copied Howells s note, and 
wrote : "At this beautiful place (Aubrey House) with its quiet 
park in which I cannot imagine that I am near a city of three 
millions in which I can hear the cuckoos and nightingales 
singing, I find that sweet rest that I was so much in need of 
when I left home, and I only need you at my side and Eustace 
and Emerson on the green grass to make me perfectly happy." 
When a few weeks later beautiful Aubrey House garden was 
darkened under my cloud, and I could no more hear the songsters 
because of the angry notes coming across the sea, a sweeter vision 
and melody than all of them came to me as I read again those 
words from Venice. O my constant, loyal friends, in whose friend- 



382 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

ship unbroken these forty-four years I have found happiness, you 
can never know the heavenly message brought to me in that 
sad hour by the missive which had winged its way so far across 
land and sea ! For it was to me a token soon to be fulfilled of the 
subsiding of my little deluge and the return of estranged hearts. 
An exchange of letters proved that these friends were pre 
pared to receive me at any moment, and I soon started south 
ward. I left London on June 26. Among my wife s papers I 
find a letter written from Boulogne which says : 

I had a long interview yesterday with Mr. Adams, the American 
Minister in London. He says that the first letter was certainly a 
mistake ; but that after that I did the very best thing I could, and 
that he regards my course as most honourable. He says no harm, 
and possibly some good, has been done in England by it ; and he hopes 
no evil will result in America. He has no doubt that a note to Mr. 
Lincoln or Mr. Seward, declaring that the letter was written without 
proper reflection and was well meant, would cause me to stand as 
well as I could desire with them. Adams was very kind to me indeed. 
Just what next step in the matter should be I do not know ; so I 
will take none as yet. I begin to look forward to a brief rest at Venice, 
which I much need. If I could just now retire entirely from the world 
I would like it much. How I envy the simple and happy peasants 
I watched for hours to-day sunning themselves along the shore or 
playing in the water, so free from care, and I so full of it ! ... The 
Taylors have been so kind and cheering to me. This morning I left 
them. Just before I left I received a letter from the Duke and Duchess 
of Argyll (he is in the present Ministry), saying that they were desirous 
of making my acquaintance, and asking me to breakfast with them 
Saturday. I declined, being determined not to postpone my visit to 
Venice. . . . You had best stay with my sister at Easton until I 
return ; unless you determine that I had best not return in which 
case you must come over here. The ocean voyage on a Cunarder will 
not be bad. At any rate, we must meet soon. 

In Paris I learned that the " Conway-Mason correspondence " 
had been translated there, and that the animadversions against 
the Confederacy excited by it, notably an article in the Journal 
des Debats, had been the severest blow yet dealt to the Con 
federate intrigues in France. I think I received some reassurance 
of this kind from Christopher Pearse Cranch, the American poet 
and artist, residing in Paris, who knew my relations with the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 383 

Cranch family in Washington and Cincinnati, and in whose house 
I had a cordial reception. In Turin I called on our Minister, 
George P. Marsh, who spoke of the affair in the same sense and 
spirit as Minister Adams. Such encouragements, however, did 
not lay the vision of that dear one so far away with her two little 
children passing alone through the first heavy trial of her married 
life a trial inflicted by me. 

The cordial welcome received in the beautiful home of my 
friends in Venice, and all their reassuring words about my trouble, 
could not quite restore me. Acute erysipelas broke out, fever 
set in, and the official Austrian physician could not do much for 
a case of mere worry. But after five or six days a cure was 
effected by a letter from my wife announcing that they were al) 
well ; that she had sold our house at a fair price, also our furniture, 
and would sail from Boston for Liverpool on the ship Arabia, 
August 19. 

In Venice I found my Avalon. Those friends healed my 
wounds of heart and mind. In their charming old Casa Faliero 
the house is described in Howells s "Venetian Life" we used 
to sit on the balcony overlooking the Grand Canal, eating our 
lotus in that city where it seemed always afternoon. Yet how 
beautiful were the mornings ! I do not remember one that 
brought rain. Often Howells and I rose at dawn, took coffee in 
the great Piazza while watching the morning tints painting St. 
Mark s, and had our ramble through some by-way of the dream 
land before returning to breakfast. Then while the consul was 
in his office, never serving his country more profitably to it than 
when his literary task was undisturbed by official business, Mrs. 
Howells was my guide to the pictures and churches they loved 
best. After dinner we sat in some big cafe in the Piazza ob 
serving the promenaders and the costumes of many regions ; 
returning early, however, for Howells was writing a novelette in 
poetic form, and read us in the evening what he had written during 
the day. 

Howells was also engaged in writing his " Venetian Life," the 
publication of which in London I had the happiness of furthering, 
and of greeting with its first review, in the Fortnightly. In that 
book certainly the finest ever written about Venice I to this 
day move again amid scenes and incidents of that happy July. 



384 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

How well I remember our Sunday morning voyage to Chioggia, 
and Howells s charming talk of its poet, Goldoni ! I indulge 
myself with quoting here the following incident : 

As we passed up the shady side of their wide street, we came 
upon a plump little blond boy, lying asleep on the stones, with his 
head upon his arm ; and as no one was near, the artist of our party 
stopped to sketch the sleeper. Atmospheric knowledge of the fact 
spread rapidly, and in a few minutes we were the centre of a general 
assembly of the people of Chioggia, who discussed us, and the artist s 
treatment of her subject, in open congress. They handed round the 
airy chaff as usual, but were very orderly and respectful nevertheless 
one father of the place quelling every tendency to tumult by kicking 
his next neighbour, who passed on the penalty till, by this simple and 
ingenious process, the guilty cause of the trouble was infallibly reached 
and kicked at last. I placed a number of soldi in the boy s hands, to 
the visible sensation of the crowd, and then we moved away and 
left him, heading, as we went, a procession of Chiozzotti, who could 
not make up their minds to relinquish us till we took refuge in a church. 
When we came out the procession had disappeared, but all around 
the church door, and picturesquely scattered upon the pavement in 
every direction, lay boys asleep, with their heads upon their arms. 
As we passed laughing through the midst of these slumberers, they 
rose and followed us with cries of " Mi titi zu ! Mi titi zu ! " (Take 
me down! Take me down !) They ran ahead, and fell asleep again 
in our path, and round every corner we came upon a sleeping boy ; 
and, indeed, we never got out of that atmosphere of slumber till we 
returned to the steamer for Venice, when Chioggia shook off her 
drowsy stupor, and began to tempt us to throw soldi into the water, 
to be dived for by her awakened children. 

The artist was Mrs. Ho wells herself ; I stood holding an 
umbrella to shield her from the sun, while Howells did his best 
to keep some small space around her and prevent the eager boys 
from interrupting the work by their impatience to see it. I 
remember well the buxom and comely mother, who had been 
informed that her child was on the pavement with a crowd 
around him, pushing her way frantically to the spot, and the 
transition of her face from fear to joy when she arrived just as 
Howells was filling the sleeping boy s hands with soldi. 

But Howells made in his book a little sketch of me, too, 
while I was in my sweet dream in Venice. " Upon my word," 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 385 

he writes, " I have sat beside wandering editors in their gondolas 
and witnessed the expulsion of the newspaper from their nature, 
while, lulled by the fascination of the place, they were powerless 
to take their own journals from their pockets, and instead of 
politics talked some bewildered nonsense about coming back 
with their families next summer." 

I was the model for that little picture. But my friend did 
not venture to tell how far the spell carried me. I actually 
took those two friends about house-hunting, and priced three or 
four charming homes to which I would bring my little family. 
I sat me down in balcony and gondola and said, I will return no 
more or only long enough to meet Arabia the Blest at Liverpool ; 
where I would say, Come, my wife, I have prepared for you a 
sweet retreat from all this strife for which you and I were not 
made, and where we will forget our troubles and humiliations ! 

In my life many beautiful visions in the distance have proved 
hard and jagged realities when reached. In my eighteenth year 
in Warrenton there rose over my law-books dreams and visions of 
Venice, and I laid there the scene of my story, " Confessions of a 
Composer." But my dreams were poor compared with the reality 
of Venice. No doubt this was largely due to my having at my 
side a poet. Howells and I used to visit certain of the beautiful 
things repeatedly. They were like personal friends. There was 
in particular a very ancient stone statue in the corner of a garden 
which inspired us both to write about it. The old St. Christopher 
with the Child on his shoulder its little hand bearing up the 
world, as indeed the children do has in his face no pain, but 
serene patience. A solitary vine had climbed over from behind 
the garden wall on which the statue stands, and twined and inter 
twined all about the Saint and the Child, binding them together 
with manifold ties. 

When I went on my last afternoon to bid farewell to St. 
Christopher, it appeared to me a sort of symbol of Venice under 
Austrian rule. The city seemed turned to stone by the presence 
of the Austrian. For I had just been conversing with an ex 
ceedingly intelligent young Venetian Republican, of whom I 
had asked wherein consisted the oppression of Austria. He 
said : " Austria is not oppressive. Francis Joseph is one of the 
most liberal of European rulers. There is nothing he is more 



386 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

anxious to do than to make us in Venice happy and contented. 
Our theatres are closed, but we have closed them ; the government 
would make any outlay to have us amused. It has three times a 
week the best band in the world to perform in the Piazza San 
Marco. But the Italians will not walk there, and have given up 
their evening promenade since 1848. Each of us has about as 
much personal freedom as he could use. But it is nationality 
in us, it is nature struggling by her own laws of affinity ; we are 
in a deadly conflict (which will soon burst out) with Austria as 
animals are with those born to prey on them. We are gravitating 
to the government of Victor Emmanuel, on the principle that 
moves a magnet to a loadstone." 

" When," said Goethe, " I heard grand mass in Venice, I 
wished myself either a child or a devotee." I was glad to find 
myself more a child than a devotee of this new time, whose 
devotions had passed away from the ancient and artistic symbols, 
and the living vines climbing about them, to find a stony martyr 
dom in the mere fact of being under a flag not Italian. All of 
our countries are under the practical dominion of institutions 
come from other races ; our churches, Sabbaths, constitutions, 
marriage laws, etc., infinitely more important to our happiness 
than any flag, are derived from alien races. Practical English 
men have too much appreciation of realities to desire revolution 
against the German family on their throne, but gave piles of 
money to incite Italians against Austria and France. 

One day a beautiful Italian countess breakfasted with us at 
the Casa Faliero. She spoke very good English, and when we were 
on the balcony talked eloquently about the wrongs of Venice. 
She lit a large cigar, but even that did not console her ; her tears 
flowed down on the cigar, but I repressed my smile. 

When I left Venice in August I bore with me a letter from 
Mrs. Howells to my wife it is before me now, as sweet a letter 
as woman ever wrote picturing the enchantment of Venice, 
and crying, " Do come, do come ! " 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

Arrival of my Family in England Interview with Minister Adams 
Sermons at South Place Chapel Beecher in London Rev. F. D. 
Maurice Maurice s Novel, " Eustace Conway " Madox Brown s 
Picture of Maurice and Carlyle America in the Pantomimes 
Professor Newman and his Catholic Brother Letters and Talks 
of Professor Newman Dr. Newman in his Oratory Elizabeth 
Garrett Studying Medicine Mrs. Fawcett Legal Disabilities of 
Women. 

BUT London as well as Venice had affectionate hearts. Aubrey 
House and its exquisite garden was also a dreamland, especially 
when I found there letters from America assuring me that the 
" momentary annoyance " so Phillips called it at my Mason 
correspondence had passed away, and that my letters to the 
Commonwealth were valued. My wife had proudly offered to 
close my connection with that paper, but editor Sanborn and the 
rest insisted on its continuance. 

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Malleson, being absent from London, 
desired me to bring my family to occupy their house until their 
return. These friends were connected with South Place Chapel, 
from which I received an invitation to give there some dis 
courses. The week preceding the arrival of my family was 
passed in the north of Ireland in response to an invitation from 
the Neills of Belfast. I had met Miss Dora Neill (now Mrs. 
Dulany of California) when we were both visiting Theodore 
Weld s school at Eagleswood, N.J. She and her sister, Mrs. 
Sherwood, took me on an excursion which included the Giant s 
Causeway, and I became well posted in Irish customs and in the 
peculiar demerits of the low-backed car. 

At last ! 

From the tender I saw my wife and children smiling down 
on me from the deck of the Arabia, and every cloud of care 
floated into light. 



388 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

Soon after reaching London I received a note from the United 
States Minister requesting me to call on him. I find the following 
note : " Wednesday, Sept. 23 : Went to call upon Minister 
Adams, 5, Upper Portland Place, in obedience to a note received 
yesterday from him. He told me that he had received a note 
from Secretary Seward concerning my Mason correspondence 
in which he (Mr. S.) said that he had shown my letter, and one 
from Mr. Adams concerning it, to the President ; and that the 
President said that as I had acted so frankly and honourably in 
the matter after it was done, he should not feel disposed to 
pursue the matter further. 

My letter referred to had been written by the advice of 
Mr. Adams as I was starting for Venice, and enclosed to my wife. 
I kept no copy of it, but remember that while it confessed a 
mistake and said it was meant to unmask an enemy of our 
country, it was free from compliments. It was left to my wife 
to send it or not, as her judgment might direct. 

The Mallesons were active in every " progressive " movement. 
Mrs. Frank Malleson, nee Whitehead, founded the London College 
for Working- Women and also the Woman s Journal. I prepared 
for her periodical an extended account of Antioch College in 
Ohio, and lectured from time to time at her college. 

On September 17 we found rooms at 16, Lansdowne Terrace, 
Regent s Park. When my library came I found that the customs 
at Liverpool had seized the American edition of Carlyle s " German 
Romance," beloved volumes bought in youth. Carlyle wrote 
them a request, and the books were restored. But where now 
were my visions of Venice ? The preacher had revived in me. 
My first discourse in South Place, September 13, had elicited 
from the small congregation a response which determined my 
future. 

William Johnstone Fox, M.P., who for forty years had made 
the South Place pulpit famous, had for some years been in re 
tirement. The society had vainly endeavoured to find a minister 
to carry on his work in the same rationalistic spirit, and 
had been brought to the verge of dissolution by their last 
preacher. In the June of that year, 1863, the society s com 
mittee reported : 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 389 

Now we have a comparatively empty chapel ; and it would be 
strange, indeed, in this age of free inquiry, and in this free church 
of ours, if it were not so, seeing that for the last five years we have 
had scarcely any other source of religion opened to us but records 
of the past as contained in the Bible. The daily heroisms of our 
own time, the martyrdoms of old, the great spirits of all countries 
and of all climes, have ceased to be called in to our assistance ; and 
from our pulpit the rocks and the heavens no longer sing their grand 
hymn of devotion and praise. 

On this report a meeting was summoned, and it would have 
closed the chapel but for the suggestion of P. A. Taylor, M.P., 
that I should be heard. My first sermon showed them that I 
was the reverse of a reactionist, and my second was attended by 
some old radicals who had rarely appeared in the chapel since 
Fox s time. But I did not preach as a candidate for the pulpit. 
I was still receiving letters from America, where my best friends 
Phillips, Sanborn, Stearns, Bird were consulting as to whether 
they should demand my return. I therefore gave no definite 
replies to suggestions of a permanent settlement at South Place. 
As the weeks went on, however, it became plain that I could not 
enter with zeal into the struggle in America. The Presidential 
campaign had divided the anti-slavery people one part following 
Phillips in his effort to elect Fremont, the other following Garrison 
in his adherence to Lincoln and the situation was embroiled. 
As Phillips had written in my defence, and as I had expressed my 
distrust of Lincoln, my return to America would be a signal for a 
revival of denunciation of my Mason correspondence for the 
purpose of attacking Fremont. And it would have damaged 
him, because I could not again have apologised for my proposal 
to concede secession in exchange for emancipation by the South. 
Although the only hope for even a distant benefit to the slave 
had seemed to travel with the Northern arms, the war became 
increasingly abhorrent to me. It was monstrous that the Southern 
negro should be forced into a conflict wherein he was the only 
innocent party. To this both wings of the abolitionist group 
were consenting, and even held it an advance towards freedom 
instead of to a new slavery, that the Southern negroes should be 
organised separately from whites to fight their former masters, 
into whose hands they must fall whatever the result of the war. 



3QO THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

In America I should stand almost alone. Even Emerson had 
come to respect war, and accepted from the President appoint 
ment as a Visitor to West Point (1863). My friend Judge Conway 
had lost his seat in Congress on account of his pleadings for peace : 
he had met my wife, and sent word to me that the rage for war 
had become universal, and that I was well out of it. My wife 
had the same feeling, and had so sympathised with the spirit of 
my Mason letters that she hesitated for some time before sending 
my apologetic letter to Seward. I had been drafted for military 
service, but though I was exempt because my right eye was too 
dim to sight a gun, my wife knew that I would sooner be shot than 
shoot anybody, even by a purchased substitute, and little as we 
could afford it, she simply paid the three hundred dollars required. 

It was personally pleasant to greet Henry Ward Beecher in 
London in October, 1863. At the meeting in Exeter Hall the 
crowd was thrilled by his eloquence and convulsed by his humour. 
But so far as our cause was concerned, Beecher did less good than 
a Southerner (American) who replied. The foolish fellow de 
manded a hearing, but manifested such a spiteful spirit that the 
Rev. Newman Hall called attention to the example shown of 
the debasing influence of slavery, its contrast with the large and 
humane spirit of the defender of freedom. Beecher s tribute to 
the abolitionists was fine, but his casuistic apologies for the 
administration s tenderness towards slavery were feeble, and 
were received with silence. He compared the immunity of the 
American States to the ancient privileges of the City of London, 
on which Parliament and the Crown cannot encroach. The notion 
that London City contained any privilege that would not be set 
aside instantly if it affected the nation injuriously was absurd. 
His use of tu quoque retorts was beneath the serious character of 
the occasion. That England in her past history had done things 
similar to those charged against America was a commonplace 
of the people before him, and in any case was no justification. 
Beecher did not raise us from hopes to certainties that slavery 
would end. He appeared more anxious to make out a case for 
the President than for emancipation, the one thing that for his 
audience made the war defensible. 

At the breakfast given Beecher he said that on Monday at 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 391 

Liverpool his voice was lost. Being due at Exeter Hall on 
Tuesday, he bandaged his throat and prayed God to return his 
voice. When he reached London his voice was in good condition. 
There was an unpleasant air about this anecdote ; I had never 
known Beecher unctuous before ; and one might wonder why a 
Providence so considerate about Beecher s throat might not 
rescue men perishing on battlefields. 

I always thought it a mistake in Beecher to permit the 
publication of his speeches and sermons. In the preface to a 
volume of his sermons he says, " I never saw a sermon of mine in 
print but I burned to improve it." On which the Saturday 
Review remarked that it might have been the best way to im 
prove it. Beecher could write well, but his sermons lose in print 
much of the fire and poetic elevation that so moved his listeners 
that close criticism was impossible. 

I saw a good deal of Beecher in London, but felt that he 
was by no means the splendid thunderer that he was at the 
beginning of the war. He had adapted his mind to mere military 
force put forth for a mere Union, even if with slavery surviving ; 
and if Beecher could be carried away by this feeling, what must 
be the case with others ? Correspondence with old friends at 
Sandy Spring, Md., showed that even the Quakers, their patriarch 
Roger Brooke gone silent, were forgetting their peace principles. 
Recognising the war as God s agency for ending slavery, they 
were for a time indignant with me for proposing to Mason that 
the war should be ended by Southern emancipation. How merely 
academic are the most radical peace principles when a flag de 
mands blood ! 

Among the anti-slavery veterans who met Beecher at break 
fast was George Thompson, who had interested himself in my 
own mission. He was still vigorous and erect. What a splendid 
career the handsome orator with his sonorous voice would have 
had in America if he had come over there to spread the new 
evangel of slavery ! I remember the wrath that filled us in 
Virginia at the coming of this " incendiary " foreigner, and how 
the mobs that terminated his mission were applauded. George 
Thompson was a grand man and a real orator. 

Christmas Day, 1863, was springlike. The day could not be 
distinguished from an ordinary Sunday ; all the churches were 



392 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

open and all places of amusement closed. I went to hear F. D. 
Maurice in his Vere Street chapel, finding a seat in the pew of 
my friend Thomas Hughes. The pure face and earnest eyes of 
the man, the lofty brow and the halo of white hair, rose above 
the formulas of the service like a serene moon emerging from 
clouds. The service was more agreeable than that of the dis 
senters, but some feeling if not faith that it is a real "service," 
accomplishing something mingles with the literary apprecia 
tions one hears of it apart, of course, from the music. Vere 
Street chapel was plain, the high places of the Established Church 
being given to men more fully harnessed than Maurice. He 
was the son of a Unitarian minister, and intended for the Uni 
tarian ministry ; although separated from that denomination 
doctrinally, its spirit adhered of taking care for the human 
brother, even if the gift be left before the altar. He had parted 
from Unitarianism because the doctrine of Incarnation appeared 
to him the solution of all religious problems. As Christmas 
would naturally be devoted to his favourite theme, I hoped to 
hear for once a profound view of that subject. But a shadow 
had fallen on us all that morning ; Thackeray had died suddenly 
the day before. Maurice managed to repress his emotion in 
alluding to his friend, and was soon rapt in his vision. The 
sermon was charming, but I derived from it no clear idea of his 
theology. Perhaps this was because the man himself and the 
illumination of his countenance kept drawing away my attention 
from the point he was making. The only ornament in the chapel 
a dove with outstretched wings carved on the ceiling symbol 
ised the spirit of the preacher. His thought at one time floated 
away in a blue mist, but now and again hovered near with words 
of wisdom. 

I always listened to Maurice with pleasure, and personally 
knew him well ; I occasionally lectured in the Working-men s 
College which he founded. In conversation Maurice was always 
interesting, but I longed to hear a laugh from him. The burden 
of the world s labour rested more heavily on him than on the 
working-men themselves. Several eminent men told me that 
they had ceased to visit Carlyle because they found his views of the 
world so depressing. But there was some hopefulness in Carlyle s 
grand laugh, while the beatific visions of Maurice were too far 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 393 

in the heavens to be cheering. I saw at Newcastle-on-Tyne, 
in the house of Mr. Leathart, a wonderful painting by a wonderful 
artist Ford Madox Brown. It was entitled "Work." The 
picture represents builders busy on the street ; several fashionable 
ladies are picking their way past the bricks and mortar ; Maurice 
looks on with some sadness in his face ; Carlyle, never so happy 
as when he saw work going on, is laughing heartily. The con 
trasted attitudes represent the artist s design, which, as he told me, 
was to bring together the working-man s friend and the prophet 
of work. The artist also gave me an amusing account of his 
endeavour to paint Carlyle. Maurice consented to sit, but 
Carlyle refused, and could barely be persuaded to accompany the 
artist to South Kensington and stand against a rail while the 
photographer took the full length figure needed. Carlyle made 
a sort of grimace, and said plaintively " Can I go now ? " Some 
thing like that grimace appeared in the photograph, and Madox 
Brown found in it a valuable suggestion for a portrayal of the 
characteristic laughter. 

I mentioned to Carlyle the pleasure given me by Madox 
Brown s picture, and it led him into a talk about religion in 
England of which I wrote down some notes. He ridiculed the 
Thirty-nine Articles, but said the English Church was " the 
apotheosis of decency," which was no characteristic of the con 
venticle. He had not for many years entered either church or 
chapel, but, when visiting some friends in the country, was per 
suaded to go to a dissenting chapel. " The preacher s prayer," 
he said, " filled me with consternation. O Lord, thou hast plenty 
of treacle up there ; send a stream of it down to us ! This was 
about the amount of it. He did not seem in the least to know 
that what such as he needed was rather a stream of brimstone." 
Speaking of Maurice, he described him as one of the pious-minded 
men in England. " Maurice once wrote a novel called Eustace 

O 

Con way ; he would like it suppressed ; it is a key to him. A 
young man gets into mental doubts ; a priest sprinkles moonshine 
over him, and then all is clear ! Alas ! that is what happened to 
poor Sterling a little time. He got bravely through it ; but 
when he did it became painfully evident to us that he was too 
fine and thin to live among us here." 

Carlyle loaned me Maurice s novel " Eustace Conway," of 
z* 



394 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

whose title he could give me no explanation. (My son, then in 
his sixth year, was named after my uncle, Judge Eustace Con way, 
of Virginia.) Carlyle said it had been a good many years since 
he read it, and I found that his memory of it was erroneous. The 
sceptical youth does not undergo the moonshine-sprinkling and 
return to the bosom of the church, but goes on through all the 
phases of heresy with tragical results. 

Anthony Froude told me that at one time Maurice conducted 
a Bible Class of ladies and gentlemen. On one occasion the 
narrative of Jacob and Esau was considered, and Maurice inter 
preted the two as types Jacob symbolising the spiritual, Esau 
the natural, man. After this impressive statement had ended, 
Maurice said before dismissing the company : "As for the fraud 
practised by Jacob on his brother, it only illustrates what has 
been observed in all ages, namely, the liability of the spiritual 
man to be a sneak." 

As Christmastide, 1863, came on we saw some old-fashioned 
pantomimes. At Astley s the opening scene showed two Cheap- 
side shops ; over the larger one was the sign " A. B. Lincoln & Co., 
Hardware-men and General Dealers " ; on the next : " J. Davis 
& Co., Cotton Brokers." On the door of the former were notices 
that paper was wanted, and that greenbacks might be had in 
any quantity. A placard announced : " This shop is one and 
the same as that next door." On the shop of J. Davis & Co., a 
placard said, " No connection with the concern next door." In 
the window was a large Confederate flag inscribed: "Two rams 
wanted immediately." Another was : " A few horses, sheep, 
women, children, and other cattle for sale." The two Presidents 
dressed as prize-fighters fought until they both got into a box ; 
which box the Columbine danced about, and the Harlequin 
struck, when it flew open, revealing the heads and tails of two 
Kilkenny cats, their other portions having disappeared. 

A very queer feature of the theatrical season was a ballet at 
Her Majesty s theatre called " White and Black." It was " Uncle 
Tom s Cabin." 

In the beginning of our " storm and stress " our love goes 
out to that man who extends a helping hand at one or another 
point where we falter. Such, as already related, was for me 
Francis William Newman s book, " The Soul : her Sorrows and 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 395 

her Aspirations." Here, as I was fearing my intellectual recoil 
from dogmas, was a spiritual pasture fresher than that I dreaded 
leaving, and not hedged by dogmatic thorns. 

When I arrived in London I sought Newman at once. It 
was not difficult to form happy relations with him, for his heart 
was in the cause of the slave. He was twenty-seven years my 
senior, but full of vigour. My personal troubles in connection 
with slavery gained me his cordial welcome ; but when he also 
discovered the religious path I had travelled, and the help brought 
me by his book on the Soul, there was something paternal in the 
way Newman took me to his heart. Happily I was able to be of 
some service to him. He was emeritus professor of Latin in the 
University of London, without salary, but had laid up about ten 
thousand pounds, for the larger part of which I secured, through 
the aid of my friend Henry G. Denny of Boston, a profitable 
investment. 

Newman lived in a simple way. His wife they had no 
children was an invalid, and never went into " society." I 
remember pleasant conversations with her. She remained a 
" Plymouth Sister," but was friendly with me because of her 
interest in the slave, and she had accommodated herself to the 
degree of heresy represented by her husband. It was beautiful 
to remark his tenderness and tact with her. " I always re 
member," he said to me, " that it was the man of her own religion 
that she married ; and I who went off into a new faith." He 
was, however, lonely in his strong religious ideas, and spoke 
almost bitterly of his inability to hold any real conversation with 
his Catholic brother. " I have had to give up calling on him," 
he said. " Whenever I went, the conversation was limited to one 
or two words about the health of this or that relative, and alto 
gether so constrained that it became painful." 

One thing that Newman told me was a surprise : his father 
was a freethinker. My correspondence with Newman would fill 
a volume ; his letters are of historical value, and it is among my 
hopes to write a monograph concerning him. For the world 
does not know what a grand man he was. He was so unambitious, 
so conscientiously free from the rhetorical devices that catch the 
popular ear, that his reputation is less than that of many in 
feriors. Most of his letters were written to me as a public teacher 



3Q6 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

and contributor to the Press, and meant to be used by me, as 
they often were, though rarely quoted in print. I subjoin a few 
extracts : 

I am sure you are right in deprecating " hymns, prayers, hymns, 
prayers," as a regimen. At best it must be premature to children, 
and must teach hypocrisy. My grandmother used to make me read 
to her the Psalms of the day, as a thing of course (my mother or aunt 
ordinarily had them read by one of us children) : that was the be 
ginning and end of my family religion, besides saying a short prayer 
or hymn night and morning. (I remember how I used to puzzle 
what Christ s Hood had to do with us.) Sunday was a day of just 
so much external restraint as public opinion absolutely demanded. I 
learned at last, as I came to be about seventeen, that my father was 
an entire freethinker, as much as I am now. It shocked me much, 
because he never taught me anything, allowed me to pick up religion 
from anyone around me, and then scolded me because I embraced 
beliefs which he knew must condemn him. I think this neglect to 
be honest with children is a terrible evil. I have lost years of thought, 
and wandered wide and done such unwise, conceited things, and en 
countered risks for soul and body, all of which might have been obviated 
by his frank teaching. But I suspect he thought it would hurt my 
worldly prospects ; in consequence I certainly did not go the way 
to improve my worldly prospects, but counted myself dead to the 
world, and despised academic reputation, possible advancement, 
and in all the professions except medicine found something against 
my conscience. 

From other letters of Newman I quote two interesting refer 
ences to the Cardinal : 

My brother, Dr. Newman, set himself with his back to liberal 
thought in 1823 probably : in that year he adopted Baptismal Regener 
ation and Apostolic Succession. In 1823 he tried to induce me by the 
present of a picture of the Virgin to set it up in my room. I was 
an undergraduate just entering good rooms, but I promptly sent the 
picture back, and felt much secret indignation. In 1825 I counted 
him a virtual Catholic, holding Popery minus the Pope. I was an 
Evangelical, but, like plenty of Evangelicals beside, both now and 
then, was resolved to follow Truth whithersoever it led me ; and was 
always indignant when told, " you must believe this or that," or 
you will find it " will lead you further." " If that time come, I shall 
go further," was my uniform reply ; and is, I am persuaded, deep 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 39; 

in the heart of many an Evangelical whom you call bigoted, as you 
would have called me then. 

Of Coleridge and Carlyle we were then alike ignorant at Oxford, 
except of Coleridge s poetry. 

My brother s very acute mind was evidently that of a barrister, 
not of a philosopher or searcher for truth. But his dash and gener 
osity gave him wonderful power with young men. His scorn of world- 
liness and meanness, his contempt of the race for promotion in the 
Church, his claim that each shall lay down his interest on the altar 
of the Church (especially for beautiful church edifices), was all new 
to dons of Oxford at that time. But not to see that a sacerdotal 
system was that of Paganism and Judaism, and the very reverse 
of what Jesus taught, was in those days to me an inexplicable blind 
ness in a learned and acute young clergyman. I always thought it 
his calamity, that by the premature death of Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford 
and Regius Professor of Divinity, my brother gained so very immature 
an influence in Oxford. 

It was an education in the religious conditions amid which 
I was working to enjoy the intimate friendship of Francis New 
man. No American could follow the vicissitudes of our struggle 
with more poignant anxiety. He subscribed for the Common 
wealth, the Liberator, and the Anti-Slavery Standard ; he talked 
with me about the intimate discussions and differences among 
our abolitionists as if he were one of the Frank Bird Club ; he 
often spoke in the emancipation leagues and wrote in friendly 
papers. When the Confederate ambassador Mason s publication 
of my correspondence with him brought on me reproaches from 
my colleagues in America, he exhorted me to leave my case in the 
hands of my friends. My admission of mistake in pledging any 
body but myself ended the matter. With reference to the attack 
of one American censor abolitionist, Newman wrote : " He was 
unpatriotic enough for many years to be willing to allow all 
the slave States to secede and sustain slavery (which I do not 
learn he now scolds himself for), while he regards you as un 
patriotic in having been willing to take the chance of their 
seceding if they would promise to abolish slavery. You two were 
equally unpatriotic (taking you at the worst) ; while he would 
have resigned the blacks to slavery, but you would have rescued 
them." 

Newman had lost confidence in Lincoln, regarding him as 



398 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

unable to see the principles of justice in the case of blacks. He 
said that the " hardening of Pharaoh s heart " had been present 
to his imagination all through the war. After the assassination of 
Lincoln he wrote with horror of the tragedy, but said : "A 
Hebrew prophet would have described Jehovah as sending an 
evil spirit to entice Wilkes Booth to his deed." The rumours 
and apprehensions at that time reaching England were that 
President Johnson would extend the fury he was manifesting 
towards the supposed conspirators against Lincoln and Seward, 
to the leaders of the Confederacy. On this Newman said that 
the burning indignation in America is a finite force ; it is all 
wanted to extirpate the Southern aristocracy, and none should 
be wasted on Jefferson Davis or other worthless individuals. 

Francis Newman never went into any so-called " Reform " 
without a thorough and original investigation. I was indebted 
to him for the correction of several errors prevalent in America ; 
for instance, the fiction that England had paid the West Indian 
slaveholders twenty millions " compensation " for their liberated 
slaves. The money was a loan some time after the emancipation, 
and could not have passed the House as payment, but its return 
was never demanded. Newman remembered all the circum 
stances in that case, and in Canning s origination of the 
" Monroe doctrine," and referred me to all the documents. 

His work in connection with the University of London had 
brought him into intimacy with Lord Lyttelton, the Minister 
who had charge of educational affairs. He told me of a dinner 
given by Lyttelton to the professors. Some were conversing 
about the best plan for educating the young princes, but Lyttelton 
said, " We don t want our princes to be educated. They should 
know European languages and general literature, but not the 
serious things you gentlemen mean by education." Lyttelton 
gave him an account of his going to Windsor with Peel and the 
Duke of Wellington to obtain the signature of George IV. to 
the Catholic Emancipation Act. The King s resolution to hold 
out against it was known, and threatened a crisis. When the 
three Ministers laid the act before him the King was excited, and 

cried, " But my oath ! my oath ! I have sworn to " " I 

pray your Majesty to forgive me for interrupting you," said 
Wellington. " That some measure of this kind will become law 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 399 

in time is probable, and it would be distressing to have your 
Majesty take up an irrevocable position that might eventually 
prove embarrassing." The King was silent, and the three left. 
When they had driven a mile they were overtaken by a royal 
messenger with a request for their return. The King silently 
signed the Act of Parliament. 

As the brothers Newman are associated in my mind in a 
quasi-phenomenal way, I produce here my notes of a visit to 
the oratory of Dr. Newman, when he was becoming aged. 

Being on a visit in Birmingham, I went two miles before 
seven on a morning of sleet and rain to attend mass, through a 
desire to look upon the face of Father Newman. My wife and 
another lady went with me, though we expected that the aged 
Father might, on such a bitter morning, leave the celebration to a 
subordinate. In the dim Gothic chapel of the oratory there was 
but one person, a young woman, kneeling alone. Presently other 
women, apparently four domestics, entered. The most eloquent, 
learned Catholic in the Anglo-Saxon world had for his audience 
that morning five believers, one member of the English Church, and 
two freethinkers. The altar at which he officiated was in a corner, 
and he came slowly down a stairway behind it. There w r as only 
one candle, that being lit to enable him to read. On the upper 
wall above his head was a large crucifix, and beneath it on a 
level with his face a picture of Veronica about to place the 
handkerchief on the face of Jesus. Far away in his corner, his 
silvery head bent, his voice murmuring on in a monotonous 
feminine tone, Father Newman seemed an almost incredible 
figure in enterprising and especially Unitarian Birmingham. It 
was indeed a painful visit to the ladies. Our friend fell on her 
knees with her back turned to the altar, saying she was unable 
to endure the emotion caused by the sight. My wife said she 
felt shame that a man of intellect could go through such per 
formances. For myself I had studied the man. 

Father Newman was a man of strange visage. His forehead 
appeared very low, perhaps from the way his unparted hair fell 
over it ; the top of his head seemed flattened ; the mouth bore 
an expression of pain ; the large chin jutted out ; the nose 
was prominent, like that of Wellington. When the features were 
foreshortened in the front view and the luminous eyes bent 



400 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

downward or nearly closed as prayers were uttered, the face 
resembled that of an aged woman ; another turn, bringing a 
half side-face, an open eye, an upraised head, and the effect was 
one that needed a Raphael to portray. There was at another 
part of the wall a picture of St. Francis in ecstasy. Just after 
looking at that my eyes turned to Father Newman, whose head 
was haloed by the candle beyond it, and he seemed to be the 
successor of all the saints who lived in days when saints could be 
real. 

But it required an effort of the historical imagination to 
place Father Newman in his proper environment. Birmingham 
echoed her invocations with early steam- whistles. The sounds of 
an awakening city stole in with the morning light. At eight 
o clock the aged man gathered in his arms his paraphernalia, 
and with faltering tread on the stairway passed out to his 
mysterious labours. 

As we were returning from the oratory I asked myself and 
the ladies with me how this could be explained. Here is the most 
brilliant man in the English Church ; all Oxford is crowding to 
hear him ; his path is straight to the throne of Canterbury ; one 
morning he knocks at the door of an obscure little Catholic church 
in Oxford and asks admission as an humble member, alienates 
friends and relatives, and takes his place among the ignorant 
domestics and workmen. " That does not appear to me wonder 
ful," said our devout friend : " One glimpse of the eternal world 
is enough to turn to nothingness all that this world can give." 

I regretted that I could find no opportunity of hearing Dr. 
Newman preach. Some Unitarians who went to hear him at 
the oratory on an Easter Sunday told me that the sermon was 
such as might be addressed to children. It amounted only to 
asking his hearers if they would not be much surprised if a person 
whose funeral they had attended were to meet them, alive and 
well. After saying in various ways that they would be much 
surprised, he related the story of the resurrection in the language 
of the Testament, and so ended. 

Cardinal Newman s name is cherished among unorthodox 
religionists because of his " Lead, Kindly Light " a favourite 
hymn in Unitarian churches. On January 18, 1879, Newman 
wrote to an inquirer that he did not remember his meaning in the 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 40 1 

closing lines, and that a writer was not bound "to be ready for 
examination on the transient state of mind which came upon 
one when homesick or seasick, or in any other way sensitive or 
excited." But that semi-agnostic hymn of about his thirtieth 
year is Newman s niche in the world s imagination. 

Martineau lamented that his friend F. W. Newman did not 
appreciate the interest of his Catholic brother s career or even 
the picturesqueness of his personality. He ascribed it to a 
deficiency of imagination. My own belief is that it was not that, 
but precisely the same cause that prevented Martineau from 
seeing anything picturesque or impressive in the collaboration of 
his sister Harriet with Atkinson in the experiments and specula 
tions which he (Martineau) called " Mesmeric Atheism." In 
both cases the personal feeling was too painful for a right per 
spective ; it was a page held too close to the eyes to be read. 
My own long intimacy with Francis Newman, and our corre 
spondence during a generation on all social and religious issues, 
led me to the perception that between the brothers there was a 
moral resemblance so close that one might be regarded as a sort 
of inversion of the other. 

In my long experience, which has been in various countries, 
I have never known a man more absorbed in moral and benevo 
lent work than Professor Newman. The self-devotion that his 
brother gave to a church, Francis gave to humanity. Without 
belief in any reward after death, he espoused the unpopular 
reforms of his time with an almost ascetic zeal. He never entered 
a theatre, abhorred wine and tobacco, had no club, played no 
games, avoided fashionable dinners, though his presence and 
manners would have made him welcome in the finest society. 
These apparent " sacrifices " made not for future reward nor 
even to please God were not real sacrifices at all. With a 
natural fondness for sport, he had so taken the suffering of the 
oppressed world into his heart that the so-called gaieties of life 
oppressed him. Like King David, who refused water from the 
well of Bethlehem because men had risked their lives in obtaining 
it, the artificial " pleasures " of life had appeared to him blood 
stained, and his thirst for them died. He once told me of some 
thing he heard from his brother in defence of persecution ; at 
that moment I was afraid to broach to himself two subjects of 



402 THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 

moral importance : he carried his prohibition doctrine and his 
opposition to the medical supervision of prostitution to the verge 
of intolerance. My phase of Necessitarianism to which his 
own theism temporarily led me seemed to him to affect moral 
responsibility so grievously that he was cool to me until I got 
through with it ; but I was then afraid to tell him that my escape 
was by giving up belief in a dynamic deity. I once reproached 
him as our long friendship permitted for undervaluing the 
flowers and the ornamental side of life. But he said, " I have 
within me such a fund of amusement that I cannot be dull on 
the dullest day or with the dullest surrounding. If shut up in a 
wretched inn or station room on a wet summer s day, and I 
have but a bit of paper and pencil, I am quite happy in some 
mathematical problem, if nothing more important is at hand to 
occupy me." 

And those two brothers, John Henry and Francis William 
Newman, were the sons of an old follower of Thomas Paine ! 

Professor Newman was deeply interested in all questions 
related to women, and gave me a note of introduction to a young 
lady of education and means endeavouring to become a physician. 
This was Miss Garrett, afterwards widely known as Dr. Elizabeth 
Garrett Anderson. Having failed in every attempt to enter any 
of the medical colleges or the hospitals, but finding that the law 
could not prevent her from entering the profession if she had 
attended a certain number of lectures, she was fulfilling the hard 
conditions. Travelling for some miles into the thickest part of 
the city to Lock Hospital, I found her occupying a room in the 
old gate anciently the porter s lodge. Miss Garrett came to the 
door herself, and was apparently the only occupant of the Gate. 
She was about twenty-one, pretty, with clear and kindly grey 
eyes a person one would expect to see whirling in a dance in 
Belgravia. But here she was far away in poor and lowly White- 
chapel ; in her hand not a dainty fan but a dissecting knife, 
and on her table horror ! a severed human arm. 

As she told me the story of her effort to obtain medical 
knowledge, she was a more poetic figure than Mariana at her 
moated grange. Happily the instructors in the hospital thought 
so too ; although it was as inconsistent with professional regula 
tions as with Miss Garrett s self-respect to instruct gratuitously* 



MONCURE D. CONWAY. 403 

they took pains with her teaching. Sitting there alone, she 
listened to medical lectures and paid her fees in fact, had es 
tablished a medical college, of which she was the only student. 
This was all done without any air of martyrdom or of pride. She 
entered on her medical practice in London without encountering 
hostility from medical men, mingled in the best society, and proved 
to the sceptical that a lady could be at once a successful prac 
titioner and a happy wife and mother. 

Several ladies of the Garrett family contributed to the enlarge 
ment of woman s sphere in London in practical ways. A sister 
of Elizabeth Garrett became the wife of Professor Fawcett, M.P., 
and was an able exponent of the legal and ethical aspects of 
such matters. Mrs. Fawcett generally headed delegations of 
women to the government. A younger sister, Agnes, and her 
cousin Rhoda Garrett, joined together to become house decorators. 
They were attractive young ladies. They told me their adventures 
in trying to obtain training in their art. They went to the chief 
firm in London, whose manager was inclined to make fun of their 
proposal to become apprentices. Finding them skilful as de 
signers, he said that if they were not women he could give them 
positions as subordinate directors in certain kinds of work. " But, 
he said, " young women couldn t get along with workmen. How 
could you swear at them ? And think of nice ladies running up 
ladders ! " One of them said, " As for swearing at the workmen, 
they would not need that if it were ladies who made requests ; 
and, as for the ladders, bring one here and see whether we can 
climb it or not ! " The manager found some work for them, 
and in a year or two they opened their own establishment in 
Gower Street, and rose to success on the tide of enthusiasm for 
house decoration. 

At the beginning of the twentieth century it is difficult to 
imagine the situation of women in 1864. At that time two 
American ladies Miss Sewall of Boston and Miss Helen Morton 
of Plymouth had found admission to the Salpetriere Hospital 
in Paris ; but Englishmen awakened slowly to the fact that their 
whole duty to woman was not fulfilled in having a queen. The 
late Lord Coleridge used to come to the gatherings of women, and 
I remember his demonstration of the intolerable medievalism 
surviving in English laws relating to women. Since then the 



404 MONCURE D. CONWAY. 

advance in the position of woman appears to me almost the only 
progress made in civilisation. And although during most of 
those years I clamoured with women for their political enfranchise 
ment, I believe that it was largely due to their helpless dependence 
on the absolutism of men that the outrageous laws were removed 
through very shame. 



END OF VOLUME I. 



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